Here’s an 11 minute video from the Morgan Stanley Research team which quantifies the different impacts that our transition to accessing autonomous electric vehicles will have relative to the status quo of owning human-driven fossil-fueled vehicles.
Whether you look at it from the perspective of saving lives, time, or money, or the new opportunities which emerge as a result of the transition, the changes are significant.
I couldn’t embed the video in this post but you can watch it at this link.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how the future of transportation is one where we access autonomous electric vehicles. However, I didn’t address the question of whether these car access networks will own their fleet of cars or aggregate the cars of individual owners when those cars are not being used. Here’s how I think about this problem.
A car access network that owns its fleet of cars will be able to achieve a lower unit cost per car due to its bulk manufacturing (if it’s an OEM) or bulk purchasing (if it’s not an OEM) volume. In contrast, a car access network which aggregates the unused cars of individual owners will be paying these owners a fee which takes into account the higher per unit costs at which these individual owners purchased their cars. It will also incur the additional cost of transporting the car to the owner’s location when the owner wants to use it.
As a result, the car access network with its own fleet will be able to serve passengers at a lower price point than the network which aggregates the cars of individual owners. And since passengers will flock to the network offering lower prices, as long as the network has the financial capital to fund the up-front cost of its own fleet and enough political capital to receive fair treatment when competing for the right to serve a specific region, it will win over the network aggregator.
I wrote about how the combination of car access, autonomous cars, and electric vehicles are coming together to impact the car industry in an earlier post.
However, the car industry isn’t the only one that’s being impacted by these technological changes. Adjacent industries are also going to be impacted and petrol stations are one of them.
Electric vehicles are going to lower the demand for petrol. That’s clear. What’s less clear is whether existing petrol stations will begin to also serve as electric vehicle charging stations. Early indications suggest that this isn’t going to be the case. Petrol stations don’t feel sufficiently threatened by electric vehicles to serve as their charging points yet, so alternative charging networks are being built. By the time petrol stations recognize the threat and try to transform themselves, it will likely be too late as alternative networks will have already been built.
Car access transforms the upfront cost of car ownership to a variable cost. When transportation becomes a variable cost, passengers try to minimize this variable cost at each stage of their journey. And since public transport is a lower cost alternative than car access (due to public transport’s ability to accommodate more people per ride), car access passengers choose public transport where available. The increased use of public transport reduces car use (independent of the energy form that the car consumes) and this reduces the demand for petrol.
Car access networks (like Uber and Lyft today, or those which will potentially be operated by municipalities in the future) have more negotiating power over petrol prices than individual car owners due to the greater collective petrol consumption that they represent. A more concentrated set of buyers reduces the profitability of petrol stations.
Finally, autonomous cars can be programmed to drive more fuel efficiently than human drivers.
Each of these changes on its own is a threat to petrol stations. The combination of these changes may very well be lethal for many of them.