Re-examining Rethinkx


by Bob Rinear, The International Forecaster:

Back in 2017, a “think tank” came up with their version of how by 2030, the gasoline engine, and in fact, car ownership would plunge to levels not seen since the roaring 20’s. I’m going to reprint the article that started so many high level “chats’ between economists, analysts, etc.

Here it is: We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history. By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles (AVs), 95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model we call “transport-as-a-service” (TaaS). The TaaS disruption will have enormous implications across the transportation and oil industries, decimating entire portions of their value chains, causing oil demand and prices to plummet, and destroying trillions of dollars in investor value — but also creating trillions of dollars in new business opportunities, consumer surplus and GDP growth. The disruption will be driven by economics. Using TaaS, the average American family will save more than $5,600 per year in transportation costs, equivalent to a wage raise of 10%. This will keep an additional $1 trillion per year in Americans’ pockets by 2030, potentially generating the largest infusion of consumer spending in history

Economy. The key to understanding the cost improvements of TaaS vehicles is understanding vehicle degradation which affects both maintenance costs and vehicle lifetime (in miles). The main causes of vehicle degradation are all vastly reduced in an Autonomous Electric Vehicle (A-EV) due to:

– Reduced friction – 20 moving parts in an EV compared to 2,000 moving parts in a gasoline vehicle leads to far less friction and means there is less that can go wrong. EVs are essentially batteries on wheels.

– Reduced heat and vibration – the simplicity of the powertrain dramatically reduces heat and vibration in A-EVs, which reduces wear and tear on the vehicles.

– Reduced time-based degradation – under the TaaS model, cars no longer sit idle for 96% of the time (as they do in private ownership), but are instead in operation 10 times more, covering 100,000 miles per year instead of 10,000. This reduces degradation like corrosion or partial battery degradation (driven by car lifetime in YEARS).

Longer vehicle lifetimes and fewer maintenance costs

Vehicles will last much longer in terms of vehicle miles (500,000-1M miles) and cost just a fraction to repair (conservatively estimated at 20% of gasoline vehicle repair costs).

Only TaaS will benefit from the increased lifetimes. In individual ownership, a 1 million mile EV would last 100 years. Given the increasing pace of fleet turnover, vehicles will be obsolete quickly in the individual ownership model, and so depreciation (or lease) payments will still be based on residual value calculations.

But in TaaS, the capacity to travel 1 million miles combined with fleet ownership, no secondary market, and high utilization means that depreciation will be calculated by spreading the costs over the lifetime miles evenly, leading to dramatic savings: each mile travelled by TaaS will cost just 1/1,000,000th of the upfront cost.

The upfront cost of an EV compared to a gasoline vehicle is the key focus of commentators, but it has far less impact on cost per mile than the improvement in lifetime miles.

Further savings will come from: – Insurance costs: 90% reduction as AI will be dramatically safer than human drivers and cars will be impossible to steal.

– Fuel costs: 70% reduction as electricity is cheaper than gasoline per unit of energy and EV motors are far more efficient than combustion engines.

– Finance costs: 90% cheaper per mile as the fixed annual interest cost is spread over 10 times as many miles.

Changing incentives will further increase savings. Vehicle manufacturers will compete on cost per mile (rather than upfront cost of purchase or other attributes like performance, comfort, appearance, etc.). Currently, manufacturers make money from selling vehicles and maintaining them, creating incentives towards planned obsolescence.

In the future, they will compete to maximize vehicle lifetimes and minimize operating costs. Further gains are possible as vehicles are re-designed to strip out unnecessary accessories and platforms are created that can be easily maintained, with all parts capable of simple replacement when required. Labor in maintenance will be minimized through automation.

This will vastly lower transportation costs. All together, these changes will deliver transport by TaaS or TaaS Pool at a cost per mile that is four-to-10 times cheaper than purchasing a new car AND two-to-four times cheaper than operating (maintenance, fuel, and insurance) an existing vehicle.

This will disrupt both new car sales AND existing vehicle fleets. The result of these disruptions will be a much faster transition than is currently perceived by mainstream analysis, which focuses not on the disruption of car ownership, but only on the technology disruption of individually owned EVs replacing one-for-one ICE vehicles when they are purchased new – which leads to a multi-decadal replacement of the existing vehicle fleet. Existing owners will abandon their vehicles, stranding up to 100 million gasoline and electric vehicles in the United States.

There is a road to free transport. This decrease in cost opens the way to free transportation (initially in the TaaS Pool model), where the low cost of transport (1-2 cents per mile) is covered by other revenue sources – from advertising, data monetization, entertainment, or product sales. Other revenue could come from grid stabilization and demand management, corporate sponsorship of fleets or government subsidies to provide access to transport. Indeed, the success of the winners might be defined by their ability to exploit these new opportunities more than their ability to produce vehicles.

All things being equal, one would expect that the scale of this cost reduction would lead to far faster adoption than is currently expected. However, “all else” is NOT equal. Once adoption of TaaS begins, ‘systems dynamics’ will drive it ever faster.

The speed and extent of adoption. Given this new economic analysis, how quickly will the disruption occur? To understand this, we need to consider the drivers of decisions and actions by consumers (demand), businesses (supply), and policy makers (the regulatory environment). We also need to understand the non-linear impact of the accelerators and brakes that occur in technology disruptions – these are the feedback loops that make TaaS ever cheaper and better to use over time and individually owned ICE vehicles more expensive and harder to use. These are the network effects, tipping points, and market forces that change dynamically over time.

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