3 billion cars on the road by 2035 - is mobility as we know it sustainable?

3 billion cars on the road by 2035 - is mobility as we know it sustainable?
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June 18, 2008 Leading economic forecaster Global Insight has released a white paper exploring the potential future demand for vehicles to 2035. The paper predicts the global fleet could reach 3 billion vehicles by 2035, four times the current 800 million. It suggests that personal transport of the future will probably be very different having been through decades of ever-lengthening commutes, gridlocked roads, increasing parking issues, soaring fuel prices, road congestion regulations, air-quality concerns and climate change. Clearly, non-conventional solutions are needed.

While most projections have the size of the car and truck fleet growing from an estimated 800 million today to 1.6 billion by 2050, Gott warns that, "while the sheer numbers are staggering and consequences boggle the mind, a good case can be made for higher numbers based on expected economic growth." There is a strong historical correlation between per capita income, population and the number of cars and trucks on the road. According to current trends, by 2035 the growth in national economies will bring per capita GDP in every region of the world to above $5,000, which is accepted as the minimum to trigger an increase in the motorization rate.

"Smaller, lighter vehicles and existing advances in powertrain technology can help minimize the impact of more vehicles on the road by reducing CO2 and fuel consumption by about 40% and 50%, respectively," states Gott, but he adds, "Clearly, non-conventional solutions are needed."

    Possible solutions examined in the white paper include:
  • Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells;
  • Creation of energy conversions (fuel to electricity, for example) on a large scale;
  • Adoption of cogeneration principles to make the best use of all energy;
  • Minimizing the number of conversions from one energy form to another (e.g. conversion of electricity to hydrogen gas, then to compressed gas or liquid, and back again);
  • Using the least energy intensive vehicle for any given task.
  • Following on from the white paper will be a study based on what the car of the future will look like. Global Insight and Futuribles will work collaboratively to produce the study that takes a close look at what the year 2035 may look like for personal mobility.

    With the increasing expense of owning and growing frustration of driving, customers' desires for personal mobility may be significantly different in 2035. Additional government regulations may further dissuade people from purchasing the car as we know it. The stage may be set for a new range of mobility solutions.

    The study will take a look at the future based on three possible scenarios: Cornucopia, Business as Expected, and Disruptive. Each scenario looks at economic and regulatory factors, where and how we live (urban dweller versus rural resident), and markets at different stages of development (emerging, growth, and mature). Within each scenario, the study will consider a whole range of mobility solutions—from the car as we know it .

    This study is scheduled to be released in October 2008.

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