Future of Mobility

Electric cars are booming, yet they are still very costly and rarely seen on the street. But who doesn’t want to drive one of the Tesla Roadster that kick Porsche’s end.They win over fueled sports car in regards of acceleration easily (video).

Distance, however, is still a remaining issue, making pure electric cars a non-viable option even when they drop to affordable prices. From a long-term perspective, I expect battery manufactures to make electric cars win the battle or at least reach a level which is adequate for most people. When we actually run out of gas there well be a point when everything significantly cheaper than gas is adequate :)

Project “better place” of former SAP chair man Shai Agassi brought a revolutionary notion into the game of mobility. While today everyone spends money on gas not distance, “better place” offers a pay-per-use model similar to that of mobile phones (buy a phone, pay what you talk). Invest in a car that allows for battery switching and switch the battery at battery switch stations no matter how low your battery is. Payments are charged according to the distance on the car’s mileage with no limitations in the number of battery switches. With a fine grained network of battery switch stations distance of electric cars is not an issue anymore.

With ideas such as that and further improvements in battery charging technologies we might navigate towards a future were loud otto motor cars are only classics owned by enthusiasts. Cities might become more quiet places and maybe car sharing reaches a new level. With the need to charge and the trend of young people avoiding or showing less car affinity than generations before (1, 2) car sharing will advance to new levels. BMW already shows a neat approach with “drive now”, a car sharing project which is available in multiple German cities. Participants can locate cars near their location with an iPhone app and use what ever car is available, paying per mileage. Access to a car is granted with a chip that also recognizes who accesses the car. Since the cars (Minis and BMW 1) are equipped with GPS devices for navigation and a 3G connection, BMW is able to track where the cars are located and update data for the iPhone app in real time. Currently, only parked and available cars are published via the app, but I can imagine future versions that are integrated with the cars’ nav allowing to also display arriving cars worth waiting for. Who doesn’t want to wait another 5 minutes about a chic Mini convertible on a hot summer day opening up?

But, what if batteries never reach a comfortable level of quality and a network of switch stations is never created? There is still the alternative of pushing fuel cell technology faster forward and establish a chain of hydrogen supply. And hydrogen technologies sound promising!

Near future will probably see a transition to more electric vehicles with an increasing number of hybrid cars and fuell cell technology might or may not play a role. And we will see a lot of car sharing and other transportation related business models (e.g., with new transportation vehicles or non-car related) pop up in the near future. What interesting times we are allowed to observe in our life time due to gas scarcity. Keep your classics and invest in the right future technology stocks ;)

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