Why the Second Mobility Revolution is Imminent — and What We Can Learn from History
At Porsche, digital innovations and technological progress are important drivers for the future of the company. Digital transformation is changing not only our cars, but all areas of our organization and the way we work. As change never succeeds alone, but only together, we asked experts outside of Porsche how they perceive the upcoming challenges and changes. Wolfgang Gründinger is Chief Evangelist at Enpal, a German start-up that offers leasing plans for solar power systems. He explains what we can learn about the current mobility revolution by looking back and why electric cars offer more freedom and independence.
In the German children’s TV series “Löwenzahn”, Peter Lustig was already driving around in an electric car in 1983. “You can also make electricity from solar energy,” he explains to a puzzled passerby.” And if we keep inventing and thinking, we’ll get all the petrol heads off the road!” The arguments against e-mobility have remained the same since the 1980s: “not technically mature, too expensive, where do we charge all the vehicles, where will the electricity come from…” Such arguments maintain the status-quo and fail to recognize the logic of exponential technology breakthroughs. A look back into history helps to see how such breakthroughs work.
How the market for carriages collapsed surprisingly for some
The last mobility revolution took place 120 years ago: at that time, the fossil-powered car displaced the horse drawn carriage. First slowly, then with full force, the fossil car conquered the market: from 2.5% market share in 1905 to 94.54% market share in 1925. This breakthrough came unexpectedly. People were skeptical of the automobile, considering it expensive, unreliable, and dangerous. Horse-drawn carriages, on the other hand, were familiar, and even beloved. Least of all, experts, politicians, and lobbyists believed in the triumph of the automobile: “I do not believe the introduction of motor cars will ever affect the riding of horses.”,” remarked British politician Lord Scott-Montagu in 1903. As late as 1912, the U.S. Carriage Association thought that motorization would affect only the upper end of the carriage market, assuring people that there would be nothing to worry about.
Things turned out differently, of course. The price of an automobile fell from $2120 in 1907 to $604 in 1916, a cost reduction of almost three-quarters in less than ten years. At the same time, the infrastructure was ramped up from zero: in 1905, the first gas station was built in the US. By 1920, there were 15,000. By 1930, there were 124,000. Skepticism turned to fascination. Suddenly everyone wanted a car. And the horse-drawn carriage was suddenly regarded as outdated, dirty, slow, uncomfortable, and superfluous.
A thought experiment on the status quo
We are now in the midst of the next mobility revolution: the triumph of e-mobility. Many people are still skeptical and have supposedly good arguments against it. But this thinking is status-quo oriented: We have become accustomed to the fossil car and believe that this normality cannot be achieved any other way.
Let’s imagine the following scenario: What if we only drove e-cars today, but now the car and oil industries wanted to make more profit and sell us the fossil combustion car? We would ask ourselves many questions, such as “I heard I can’t even fill up a gasoline car at home. Is that really true?”, “Where does all the gasoline for the cars come from? Does Germany even have that much petrol?”, “What happens if everyone wants to fill up at the same time at the petrol station?”, “There are only 10 petrol stations in Germany! The gas stations have to come first before I buy a gasoline car” … and so on.
The electric car is coming — you can only join in now or wait until later
The e-car is coming, and there are many good reasons for it. The only question is who will join in now — and who will be late. Even with today’s electricity mix, the e-car is undeniably less harmful to the climate than its fossil counterparts. The more renewable energies there are in the grid, and the more technology and production processes advance, the better the balance will be. Today’s e-cars can already cover distances of over 500 kilometers, depending on the model. Models with even greater ranges have already been announced. So, the limited range is only a problem for very few long-distance journeys. Many electric cars are already cheaper to run than a combustion engine, as the ADAC has calculated. Moreover, the operating costs are significantly cheaper than for a combustion engine.
What’s more, people can refuel their e-car with clean solar power from their homes’ roof — and save a lot of money in the process. Solar power offers mobility at unbeatable price. When this is well understood, everyone who can afford it will get an electric car and a solar system. The best thing would be if every roof in Germany fed an e-charging station and everyone could charge their car with cheap electricity, whether homeowner or tenant. Then the skepticism would give way to a new euphoria!
The second mobility revolution is not only changing the way cars are driven.
Once you have “fueled” (i.e., charged) your car with your own electricity, you develop a feeling of freedom and independence, while also protecting the climate — and you’ll never want anything else again.
While the coming mobility revolution is more than just about electric cars — we need better public transport to make cars superfluous and inner cities more beautiful; we need more shared taxis, night trains, bike lanes, and everything that goes with it — the car will continue to play a role. And if it does, it must be electric — and run on clean electricity from the sun.
Learn more about all facets of Porsche’s digital transformation and beyond in the other episodes of our guest article series. In next guest article, Lunia Hara reveals why structural change can only work with empathetic leadership. Or read the articles that have already been published. Recently Daniela Werlich talked about the pressure to develop innovations for sustainable mobility.
About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we are developing new digital products and services — always with our customers in focus. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, emerging technologies, and the people that drive our digital journey. If you want to know more, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.