The transformative impact of electric vehicle transition on automobile ownership



electric vehicle, transition, automobile ownership, New Mobility Services, road transportation




Electric transition in road transportation is an inevitable changeover to reduce fossil-fuel-related carbon emissions and combat climate change. With a 45% share, road transportation constitutes the highest demand in global oil consumption, which as a sector has been facing significant challenges such as fluctuating prices and provision due to geopolitical tensions together with approaching peak levels (World Energy Outlook 2023; Kobashi et al., 2021). On the other hand, rapid developments in renewable energy technologies make clean energy more accessible and affordable. Besides reducing fossil fuel-related emissions, the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) is also associated with a transition in automobile ownership patterns. However, relatively few supporting arguments and quite limited research regarding how this societal transition will take place raise the question of whether reduced car ownership caused by the EV transition is a well-founded claim or is just a myth. This study provides a comprehensive interdisciplinary review of socio-technical dynamics and the interplay of different actor groups’ strategies related to electric vehicle uptake in cities to discuss its transformative effects on automobile ownership patterns toward clean energy transition in individual road transportation. The research reveals that different combinations of various actors’ (central and local governments, automobile manufacturers, mobility service providers, global energy companies, technology developers, etc.) strategies and individual behaviors may yield quite different trajectories which impact the way future car ownership patterns and individual mobility will be evolved through. The aim is to elaborate on under which circumstances EV transition can be considered a game changer. The existing literature so far has provided quite contradictory arguments about the possible impacts of widespread electric vehicle adoption in urban areas. On the one hand, EVs are highly associated with sharing schemas in the mobility discourse, such as “mobility as a service (MaaS)” or “mobility on demand” frameworks; on the other hand, governments also provide citizens with considerable incentives if they own an electric vehicle. While EVs, in this perspective, are seen as a transition to make individual mobility cleaner and more environmentally friendly, reduced transportation costs caused by relatively lower energy costs of EVs bring the risk of increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which may eventually lead to urban sprawl. Such unexpected results may even be exacerbated if EV transition takes place in this direction (based on widespread individual ownerships of EVs) and, eventually, EVs are replaced by their successor autonomous vehicles which are highly associated with increased VMT due to their ability to reduce the value of travel time (VOTT). In this case, long-distance commuting and living on the outskirts of cities become more attractive since people gain the freedom to do other productive or leisure activities during commuting, which was previously not possible while driving the car by themselves. Besides, other factors that impact the adoption of EVs at an individual scale include technological advancement in EV parts, batteries, and maintenance, to what extent renewable energy technologies will be integrated into powering electric vehicles, and the development of sufficient charging infrastructure to enable their efficient and convenient operation. The existing and predicted trajectories vary due to uncertainties and local contingencies involved and the nature of intricate and complex relationships between the actors in the development of market and policy dynamics. 


Kobashi, Takuro & Jittrapirom, Peraphan & Yoshida, Takahiro & Hirano, Y & Yamagata, Yoshiki. (2021). SolarEV City concept: Building the next urban power and mobility systems. Environmental Research Letters. 10.1088/1748-9326/abd430.

World Energy Outlook (2023) International Energy Agency (IEA)