It is not just the economy that drives today’s young people away from cars, though a suffering job market and lack of financial stability can contribute to that. The escalating cost of gas, car insurance, and car ownership deter those on the fence. A study by the firm Gartner, Inc showed that 46% of drivers between the age of 18-24 would choose internet access over owning a car. In this day and age, where everyone owns a smartphone, laptop and tablet, maintaining access to those things, and by extension the larger world, means choosing to sit idly on the train, bus or light-rail whilst checking email, rather than face the frustration of clogged traffic lanes.
The car has existed as a symbol of freedom from the beginning of its manufacture here in the States, but that meaning diminishes in the face of the real-world costs, monetary and other wise. Much more realistic an image of freedom is the ability to access anything, anywhere, which is why iPhones are preferred to automobiles.
The recent rise of the sharing economy also contributes to fewer automobile purchases amongst Millennials. Zipcar, notably, allows subscribers access to vehicles as needed, and pioneered the field for other companies like itself. Newcomers Uber and Lyft take this idea further, advertising ‘on-demand ride-sharing’ services that allow users to be picked up and dropped off by available vehicle owners. Uber and Lyft developed in part to Zipcar, but also due to the mobility and access of mobile aps, which are so-loved by this generation.
Where does that leave electric vehicles? Hopefully, as the costs of electric vehicles continues to decrease, their ownership amongst Millennials will increase. Their significance is important more for the fact that the nature of a ‘charging network’ model, necessary in ubiquity to alleviate range-anxiety, lends itself to a car-sharing system. Why not check a car out at one charging station, and park it when done at another, for the next customer to use?
Growing awareness of the cost of fossil fuels and the emissions produced by cars could also mean that electric-vehicles find a place in this generation’s lifestyles, especially those that can power themselves through solar PV, or can be powered by a clean energy grid.