Private cars are an integral part of the road transportation system built over the past century. But cars are also inefficient and expensive, likely to be the first to suffer from the coming resource crisis. Recent data indicate a crisis in the car market developing right now: prices are growing, while fewer and fewer people can afford cars. Are we going to see the end of cars as we know them (TEOCAWKT)?
Not long ago, at a discussion on electric vehicles, someone rose up from his chair and said aloud, “I have my turbodiesel, and I am going to keep it!” The tone and the attitude implied something like, “and if anyone of those silly greens tries to sell me an electric car, I’ll punch him to a pulp.” It was a good illustration of the basic rule of politics that says, “nobody wants any change.”
Unfortunately for this diesel lover (one of the many), changes are coming, no matter whether people like them or not. Look at these recent data from Bloomberg.
The whole “American way of living,” the one that President Bush 1st said was “not negotiable,” has been negotiated away already in the 1990s. Maybe “dinks” (double-income, no kids) can still afford two cars in the garage, but for most people, the American dream has truly become a dream. With everything becoming more expensive and salaries not matching the growth of prices, middle-class Westerners — and in particular lower middle class ones– have to cut on something. Not buying a new car is often the easiest choice.
— The bad scenario. No substantial change is made. Customers remain stuck to their current preferences, the industry focuses on high-end models, where it can still make a profit, and the public refuses to pay for the infrastructure needed for public transportation. Gradually, suburbanites start running out of fuel, of serviceable cars, and of spare parts. Eventually, a large fraction of them becomes unable to move anywhere. Some may be able to work from home, while others turn themselves into backyard vegetable gardeners. But in most cases, no mobility means no job, and no job means no money. That leads to the complete crash of the economic system of vast suburban areas. Suburbanites try to relocate to crowded city centers that can still be supplied with food and other goods, but only a few succeed. For the others, it is the zombie scenario.
— The good scenario. The transportation system is reorganized with less expensive vehicles. The industry moves to produce a new generation of light and efficient cars inspired by the old VW “Beetle,” but in an electric version that can be recharged by local PV plants. These cars can be made lighter by implementing substantially slower speed limits than the current ones so that the cumbersome safety equipment of today’s cars is not needed anymore. In time, these vehicles could evolve into the system known as TAAS (transportation as a service) based on shared ownership and autonomous vehicles, but that’s not strictly necessary. The new vehicles are supposed to give suburbanites sufficient mobility to be able to survive as we gradually adapt to a world where natural resources have become rare and expensive.
I had already examined this point in a previous post on “Cassandra’s Legacy,” five years ago. The current events seem to confirm my previous interpretation.
Originally appeared on The Seneca Effect Read More