Although we now have a cyclical drop in new car sales, we are still adding to the number of cars which are licensed. According to the DVLA the number of cars on Britain’s roads has risen inexorably from a little over 21 million in early 1994 to 31.7 million in the first quarter of 2019. Recessions do not cause this number to fall, only to increase more slowly. (Source: DVLA: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/882196/vehicle-licensing-statistics-2019.pdf)
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in its latest sales overview for July 2019 (https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/) reported that sales had fallen 4.1% compared to July 2018, and that sales for the year-to-date were down 3.5%.
Nothing earth shattering about that, but the detail within the statistics caused me to wonder whether there is a quiet shift to more sustainable approaches to travelling around in our daily lives.
This was the fifth consecutive month of declining overall sales, but the twenty eighth consecutive month of declining sales of diesel cars.
Sales of fully electric vehicles (EVs) were up 158% – still only 2271 cars and 1.4% of the market, but the SMMT forecasts that in 2020 51,000 will be sold, which would be 2.2% of the market.
This still appears glacial, rather than revolutionary, but manufacturers have to build the assembly lines, and the infrastructure for re-charging EVs remains sparse. Even so, if the growth rate continues, they will soon reach 10%.
So much for the facts. Now for a little informed imagination, for which I am grateful to the futurists at Baillie Gifford.
They see three major trends:
Perhaps I am premature in asking the question, but this seems to be the general direction of travel. My children, who are in their twenties, do not wish to have a car in London, and most of their friends have the same opinion. For those of us in more rural situations it is difficult to conceive of not having a car but think about being older and being able to step out of the house and to instruct the car to take you somewhere. That would be highly desirable.
Imagine not having to negotiate with your spouse about who is driving home after a dinner party!
It all seems to add up to a better quality of life and fewer exhaust fumes, but it may still be a few years away.