Why pay as you go rather than buying a car is set to revolutionise how we drive
In focus: Car use
Thousands of us use rather than own stuff these days: accommodation, phones and, increasingly, cars.
The experts say we are about to see a dramatic expansion of usership of cars as people look anew at the way money is either tied up in, or committed to, a car that in many cases sits idle for upwards of 20 hours a day.
With technology advances and lifestyle changes, the question is being increasingly posed, how many need to buy? Especially when you factor in the cost of insurance, tax, depreciation etc.
Automakers, despite the potential damage to individual traditional sales, are increasingly recognising the need to expand the facility of transport from pure sales to fleets of cars sold to pay as you use companies.
Even beyond that, there will come a time, I'm told nearly every week by some boffin or other, when many of us will share a vast driverless car pool. We'll be picked up in the morning and dropped home in the evening. All we'll have to do is book via an app and pay accordingly.
But let's not lose the run of ourselves just yet. It's not going to be an either-or situation.
Occasional use of a car will be an option for several, out of the question for many and an occasional foray for some. For now, we're seeing evidence of expansion of pay as you go in Ireland. This week, for example, GoCar added five electric Renault ZOEs to their existing fleet.
Recently set up here too is a service called Fleet - described as the 'Airbnb' of car rental - which lets you hire out other people's cars as and when needed. Or you can hire out your own. As Fleet's chief executive officer Maurice Sheehy explains: "Option one is to sell your unused car - while it still has value - and rent a neighbour's car as needed. But if you really don't want to let go of your car, option two is to put it up on the platform and earn some money back."
In the first five months of operation, more than 12,000 users have signed up for the service, with 300 cars already listed on the firm's website and smartphone apps.
One of the app's major selling points is that it paves the way for people to monetise their vehicle's downtime. "We already have upwards of 20 car owners on the platform who have earned thousands of euro by sharing their cars with other Fleet users," Mr Sheehy says.
Warming to the theme of pay as you go on Monday last was GoCar's managing director Colm Brady as he announced the addition of five new electric Renault ZOEs to the fleet.
The ZOE has a real-world range of up to 300km, so with the average user travelling 30km, there's little risk of range anxiety. Use of the ZOE costs €10 an hour. The ZOEs join BMW i3s on the GoCar EV fleet.
The company now has 320 cars in total at 200 locations around the country.
People - and businesses - use them for all sorts of things, from bringing children to school to do the shopping, trips to the zoo etc.
The average trip costs €27. Some 80pc of users do not own a car and many cycle to work or use public transport. That's where the growth is coming from. It costs €10 to sign up for the service (your bona fides/credit card details are needed) but there is no monthly fee. Key to the system is an app which lets you book a car. It is a return service. You have to leave the car where you picked it up.
It is reckoned that by allowing people to use the same vehicle at different times, each GoCar replaces up to 15 private cars.
Warming to the theme on Monday too was Renault's Paddy Magee. He told us: "Car-sharing is the future. And it's coming quicker than you think." He said motor manufacturers needed to "get on board with the reality" of what's happening.
Back to Fleet, who have some interesting figures on cost. They reckon, based on average rental prices, that hiring a car just two days a week for a year comes to €5,200 - half the average expense of running a typical car.
Certainly, the way we view our transport needs is changing rapidly. However, hundreds of thousands of us still love our cars and many of us need them all the time for a whole variety of reasons.
That has always been the case and looks like it always will be to greater or lesser extent.