Discussions about the future of the automotive sector inevitably tend to focus on changes to the car itself. But as today’s emerging technologies and new business models scale up, they will begin to reshape many other things, from the way we use energy and raw materials to the design of our cities and towns.
Take the adoption of electric powertrains for example. While carmakers continue to experiment with other alternative fuels – notably hydrogen – in the quest to reduce automotive carbon emissions, electric cars have beaten them to mass production. Including plug-in hybrids, there were more than 1.26 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the world’s roads by the end of 2015, up from just a few hundred in 2005.
Recent growth may have been high in percentage terms, but electric vehicles – especially pure EVs – are still a minute fraction of the overall vehicle market. EV sales to date have relied heavily on government incentive schemes – from lower taxes to direct cash payments to buyers. Overcoming customer reluctance is a high-stakes game for the industry and regulators alike: if international agreements to limit transport-related carbon emissions are to be met, that figure will need to increase 100-fold by 2030.