The comeback of the new mobilities is taking shape

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The 15 years that have passed have seen strong convictions rise and fall about the need for the global automobile to change profoundly. The connected vehicle, the autonomous vehicle, the electric vehicle or new mobilities have thus acquired and then lost in the eyes of some and others the status of an obvious obligation to make a revolution. The electric vehicle thus experienced a very strong upward wave during the 2008 crisis, then a very clear downturn before the wave rose again after 2015 to finally sweep the industry away. The "new mobilities" also seemed capable of profoundly changing the industry 10 years ago and have clearly been at the bottom of the wave in recent years. They may well emulate the electric vehicle and make a comeback.

The question of the electric vehicle once again became central during the 2008 crisis because the surge in raw material prices played a major role in triggering the crisis. From then on, the argument that we could not, in the automotive industry and more generally, 'get out of the crisis as we had entered it' had acquired real credibility.
We and others had thus backed up an analysis of the conditions of entry into the crisis with the conviction that the electric vehicle would see its conditions of access to widespread distribution greatly improved in the 2010s.
Similarly, although it was clear from the outset that the 'new mobilities' would be even more difficult to impose, the idea that the 'extensive' model of car use would increasingly be challenged by a more 'intensive' model convinced many experts in the same years: Rather than using very rarely a very large and cumbersome fleet of vehicles renewed every 20 or 30 years, using more intensively (via carpooling and car sharing) a more limited fleet seems more rational and capable of solving the problems of warming as much as the problems of congestion and/or congestion.

The post-crisis period from 2010 to 2017 seemed to belie these ideas and it could be considered four or five years ago that all those who had believed in electric cars or in the advent of "innovative uses of the automobile" had once again been deluded and had underestimated the extraordinary resilience of real automobile systems.

The closure of a dozen or so assembly plants in the United States, the 'rationalisation' of production tools in Europe, the take-off of oil production using shale gas and, above all, the resumption of the insane growth of automobile production in China, which is more thermal than ever before, gave the impression that everything was back to the way it was before.
In France in particular, once Borloo had left and the management of PSA had been restored, the electric motorway that the directors of Renault had once thought they were glimpsing became a byway again and the poor Zoé had to make do with it. In the same way, once the Blablacar effect had passed, car-sharing and car-pooling solutions seemed to be struggling to keep their promises and the failure of Autolib embodied in France this kind of "descent" that those addicted to new mobility experienced.

However, the arguments developed in favour of electric solutions in 2009 or 2010 came back to the heart of the political and productive game from 2015 and the VW affair and, with a sort of 10-year delay, they now form the consensus that tends to impose the battery electric vehicle (BEV) as the new standard in the world's light vehicle industry, and even in the motor vehicle industry (including VIs and buses) in general.

This has meant that the excellent reasons for not changing anything that got the car industry off the ground again in 2011 or 2012 on largely unchanged foundations have had to falter and that the very good reasons for starting from scratch have come to the fore.
For this, the VW affair and 'Made in China 2025' have combined and the VW turnaround observed from 2016 onwards embodies this turnaround and/or, to put it another way, the end of this deferment: The unsustainability of producing 100 million thermal vehicles per year worldwide and/or 30 or 35 million vehicles in China, which many had emphasised during the 2008 crisis, has returned to the heart of the analyses and the desire of the Chinese authorities to address this issue and/or to play a structural role in the automotive industry that is much more in line with the share that its production and market represent has once again become a geopolitical fact.

Since the end of 2015, Volkswagen and the entire European car industry have been drawing strategic conclusions from these facts month after month and have decided to kill the combustion engine. Even if the 14th of July 2021 may still have caught a few retards off guard, it is now a done deal.
In view of this, we must no doubt reconsider the question of 'new mobilities' and ask ourselves whether the eclipse that they have experienced is not likely to appear in the months and years to come as a parenthesis.
For the time being, we cannot yet see in the 'modal shares' or the evolution of 'occupancy rates' of private vehicles the statistical equivalent of the commercial take-off of electric vehicles in sales. However, this week we saw a clear sign of the continuing vitality of the "ecosystems" that are working to get these practices off the ground: rather than letting the platforms structured around the Gafams preempt the field of mobility and intermodal coordination, an original form of public-private partnership has been set up to create a collaborative and open MaaS-type system called "My Mobility Account".

"It allows, says the press release, the creation of a unique and personal mobility account from which the inhabitants of the territories of Ile-de-France and Mulhouse Alsace Agglomeration (m2A) can consult all the information necessary to facilitate their mobility projects.
My Mobility Account will include
- The assistance available according to the journeys chosen
- A single digital passport to facilitate access to these mobility aids from the territory and from one's employer
My Mobility Account aims to change the habits of the French in their urban and suburban travel. The experiment is based on two pillars of sustainable mobility: travel by public transport using soft mobility means (e.g. cycling) and car use that limits the energy impact: electric cars, carpooling, carsharing and self-service vehicles.

What is important here is that the public authorities, and in particular the local authorities whose importance for the VEB dossier has been noted, do not throw in the towel and do not intend to continue to rely solely on the development of a public transport offer that is less and less financeable, nor to abandon the knowledge and management of mobility to Google and the platforms.
In the same way that the EPZs will play a major role in structuring the new or second-hand car markets, they will be an opportunity to get practices such as dynamic car sharing off the ground in various urban areas. The LOM law has developed an arsenal for France that is now waiting to be activated. It will play a major role in the decarbonisation of fleets. It can also play a very important role in the reform of mobility practices and allow "new mobilities" to finally emerge from the margins.

4/10/2021

The weekly column by Bernard Jullien is also on www.autoactu.com.

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