The internal-combustion car was the dominant form of personal transportation in the U.S. for most of the 20th century, and that is still the case today.

But electric cars are gaining momentum, and they could lead to even more drastic changes in the car industry than just the abandonment of fossil fuels.

Imagine if your grandchildren not only didn't fill gas tanks—but didn't own cars at all.

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Electric powertrains will enable other technologies that could spell the end for individually-owned cars, argues Navigant Research senior research director John Gartner in a recent article for EV World.

Many analysts have argued that the combination of electric power, autonomous driving, and carsharing and ridesharing services will profoundly change how people use cars.

Gartner argues that electric powertrains will be "the lever for this change" because they complement those new technologies and services.

BMW ReachNow

BMW ReachNow

The array of sensors and processors required for self-driving cars draw a considerable amount of electricity, and a fully-electric powertrain can more easily provide this, he says.

The same would theoretically be true of the numerous connectivity features that would give people relieved of the duty of driving something to do—and potentially make sharing services more efficient.

Increased use of carsharing and ridesharing services could shift more volume to the roads from public transit, Gartner notes.

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This could actually increase traffic congestion and vehicle emissions in urban areas.

Fleets of electric cars would cut down on emissions, while connectivity features could be used to network them together and coordinate their movements.

Cars used in sharing services will still have higher annual vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) than today's individually-owned cars, which will likely shorten their lifespans.

Ford Fusion Hybrid automated driving research vehicle

Ford Fusion Hybrid automated driving research vehicle

However, that could have the positive effect of an increased supply of used electric-car battery packs, which could be re-purposed for energy storage, says Gartner.

Stationary battery packs can be used to store energy from solar panels for later use, or to balance electricity grids.

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BMW plans to offer a home energy-storage system that uses re-purposed "second-life" battery packs, while General Motors and Nissan have experimented with the concept in commercial applications.

Higher VMT could also require more frequent replacement of cars, helping to soften the blow of falling new-car sales brought on by sharing services, says Gartner.



Yet carmakers plan to do more than just supply vehicles to sharing services.

BMW and Daimler already operate their own carsharing services, while GM is investing in ridesharing service Lyft and has its own "mobility" brand called Maven.

Ford plans to transform itself from a car company into a "mobility company" by looking at ridesharing and other potential sources of revenue beyond car sales.


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