The one-and-a-half tonne road obstacles
by Dr Asteris Apostolis
You wake up, prepare yourself for work and walk to your car, which was parked somewhere overnight. You arrive at work, park your car for the next 8+ hours and then you drive back home. During the weekend, your car may never ignite. Or, you could take your family to a countryside break. Please, dear readers, do the math. In reality, your new car has cost you a few months’ salaries, but during the vast majority of time it is parked somewhere, occupying some precious space and waiting patiently for your next drive.
How does this sound to you? Pretty normal, you may argue, as this is currently the principal model for our personal transportation. But if you ever ask an airline planning expert, he/she will definitely tell you that their target is to keep their aircrafts in the air for as much time as possible.
How is this relevant? Aircrafts are some very expensive machines. If someone invests in them, he/she wants to maximise their operating efficiency and profit. In other words, they need to keep their aircraft pretty busy, so they don’t have to buy more than they have to. And that’s exactly the problem with today’s car fleets in busy cities. For the greatest part of the day, they are just some sort of heavy, bulky and expensive waste! They only fulfill their role while moving. So, if you did do the math, you will realise that in reality we buy far more cars than we actually need…If there is a way to keep a smaller, shared fleet busy all day, fewer cars would be needed, the streets would be far less crowded and the environment would be protected by an optimized use of raw materials.
If there was a way to just unlock the first parked car you see and drive away, would you do it?
This is exactly the idea behind car sharing. Car sharing is the use of public cars, generally available to everyone, along with a charging system based on time and distance travelled. Moreover, if this fleet could be large enough and carefully optimised, the need for personal, private cars could be minimal. I understand that everyone’s needs are different in terms of space. A car is often a statement of taste and social status, but I guess that with a large-scale sharing system, different vehicle categories would be available. You may not get the colour you like for your next drive to the mall, but that’s life! I guess!
And there is more. Currently, there are some successful car sharing schemes in a few countries, mainly in crowded cities. The vast majority of these implementations are using petrol or diesel cars. Therefore, we can all agree that in terms of emissions, there is no real difference so far. But, I do believe that in the future, all-electric fleets will be available. This way, an extensive car sharing practice will bring a greater number of benefits for everyone: Less crowded streets and car parks, minimal air pollution, true efficiency in car production and use of raw materials and a fair charging system, based on real use.
Think of it again. We pay to get some very expensive one-and-a-half tone machines manufactured, which consume unsustainable fossil fuels, to have them parked for years and years cumulatively without using them and we occupy precious space in big cities. This is the definition of inefficiency and the solution could be car sharing. In other words, change the model from paying for owning a car to paying for using it. There are some other side benefits too, such as the avoidance of having your car insured and road-taxed.
GIVE is fundamentally interested in such ventures. As engineers, we have the mission to conceive and develop some practical solutions for tomorrow’s transportation systems. We are currently working on some different parts of vehicle sharing solutions, which we plan to share with you in due time. After all, we have the duty to create the future we want.