In 15 years, no one will own an electric car

Functions on Demand Porsche Taycan

Do you think you own your own electric car? Sorry, we have bad news for you.

With the electric surge, current and future, many technological innovations are emerging that are changing our relationship to the automobile. Among them, the most prominent is certainly autonomous driving, but it is not the only one. Route planners, applications for finding charging stations and connecting to them are also flourishing. Not to mention the devices allowing you to connect to your car remotely, to control its parameters, to monitor it, and to act on certain commands.

But we speak less of a change that is nevertheless deeper, which is taking place quietly, and which is in the process of completely reshuffling the cards. This change is the one that consists in us being less and less “owner” of our car. It’s a gradual evolution and progresses in small steps, but which concerns all the aspects linked to the fact of “owning” a car.

Changes once again made possible by technology, sometimes imposed by financial considerations, but in which politics, ecology, notions of security and even “morality” also have their part.

State of play of a silent revolution.

Updates despite us

It has now become commonplace, or at least in the process of becoming so, you can update your electric car like your smartphone or your Thermomix recipe list. Tesla has been kicking off the ball, not without a certain talent for several years, and “improves” its cars (sorry, those of its customers, revealing slip) remotely by regularly pushing updates that bring new services, new functionalities, and even , sometimes, a surplus of power. The other manufacturers are doing it with more or less success, as this operation seems complex to operate on cars which have not been entirely designed around this possibility. But it is the trend and we will not go back.

Problem, with IT and connected objects, we do what we want. Which means we can also remove things. While most of the time updates bring additional features, they can also be synonymous with rolling back, even removing or degrading a feature. This is particularly the case with Tesla, which had fun one fine day at reduce the autonomy of certain versions of its Model S to preserve battery life. Without informing its customers of course. In 2021, it was the radars integrated in the Teslas that were the cost of a new update deactivating them, which made them inoperative in the Autopilot functionality for autonomous driving, since according to the manufacturer the cameras alone could ensure the latter in a more efficient. Before a turnaround which to some looks like a regression, to the point of somewhat worrying owners of the affected models and considering avoiding the update.

The rental of fixed-term options

Another trend accelerating the “dispossession” of our cars, the possibility of installing and activating additional options after purchase. It’s smart and probably suitable for certain uses (for example renting an air conditioning option only during the summer months). But on the one hand it is not given, on the other hand it also contributes to this feeling that we are in a car that does not belong to us, and that we ultimately depend on the goodwill of the manufacturer. This is particularly the case with the Function on Demand or FoD available on the Porsche Taycan, which allows for example for 10.72 to 19.50 euros per month depending on the option to add the Porsche Intelligent Range Manager or InnoDrive (a kind of automatic pilot) to your car. If you stop paying, the option is removed. So far no problem since it is a deliberate choice, but what will happen in the event of a dispute over a function or a payment? It will probably happen that subscribers to such options will realize that they do not own their entire car.

Admittedly, for the moment, this possibility is not yet very widespread, but one can imagine that it concerns progressively more and more functionalities, until making it possible to shape a car to measure, and especially evolutionary or ” de-evolutionary” over time according to their needs, their mood… and their means.

Mandatory repairs at an approved service provider

If a Tesla owner has the misfortune to do a bit of crumpled sheet metal, that could be the start of trouble. In addition to a possible scarcity of parts which induces sometimes long waiting times, he will also have to undergo the constraint of having his car repaired by an approved bodybuilder with the Tesla label. This has the consequence of not really being able to choose your repairer, but above all of blocking a repair from an unapproved service provider. How is it possible ? Quite simply because modern cars are equipped with multiple sensors to which only authorized repairers have access to be able to deactivate them if necessary. Thus, a banal change or smoothing of the rear bumper could be very expensive and only possible with a bodybuilder dubbed by the brand, since the latter must pay to access Tesla’s various advanced diagnostic systems. Another sign that gives the unpleasant impression that you don’t “own” your car, but that it is the brand that imposes your choices.

Autonomous or shared self-service cars

The evolution of technologies, particularly in the field of autonomous driving, already makes it possible to free oneself from a driver in certain situations, but also from an owner. The services of ridesharing will multiply, and new consumers who do not need to own a car will travel in cars with or without drivers, rented occasionally according to their needs, as with Citiz for example. On the driverless car side, it was still Tesla who was supposed to lead the way by allowing owners of Model 3 equipped with the most advanced version of its Autopilot to make it available for rental in autonomous driving mode. According to Elon Musk, this incredible possibility was to arrive at the end of 2020. We are still waiting, and only the naive and those who do not know the notion of “Elon time” believed in it, of course.

But if that happens one day, it will be another cut in the notion of car ownership. And let’s not forget that this is made possible by electric propulsion.

Battery rental

Although Renault’s experience with the Zoé did not last, some manufacturers still offer – or impose – the rental of batteries associated with the sale of their models. This is the case, among others, of the Vietnamese Vinfast, which is counting on this price setting to display lower selling prices, with the rental of the battery in return, a guarantee of tranquility according to it, and longevity, in return for a deduction of an amount between 120 and 150 euros per month . It’s another way of not being totally the owner of your car.

Long-term rental

Finally, more classically in the financial chapter, it will not have escaped you that manufacturers are increasingly trying to “hide” the selling price of their productions, in favor of ever more flashy – and tempting – long-term rental offers. . One way to take the pill by posting attractive monthly payments, because the pricing structure of the LLD can actually seem interesting at first glance, and provide access to models whose purchase by other means of financing would be difficult feasible. That said, there is still a small obstacle that forces manufacturers to display the prices with their electric ranges, it is that of the ecological bonus, since to know if a model is eligible, you have to know its selling price. It is difficult in this context to do without this display in a marketing campaign, since it is a key element of the negotiation. However, the LLD has the wind in its sails, which unequivocally guarantees that you will never own your car.

The builders alone masters on board?

As we can see, the car – a fortiori electric – is less and less a finished product, and the fact of having one in your garage no longer means that we are totally and entirely its owner. A new paradigm that does not only concern the automobile. If we take a look at certain digital and connected products such as smartphones, and in particular those of a certain brand with an apple, we have long understood that it was the manufacturer who dictated his law on what you can do or not do with your phone even when this possibility is not linked to a technical limitation.

A question then comes to mind, among others. What would happen if a government decided to impose in an authoritarian way on the manufacturers a clamping of the powers or a limitation of the speed by the forced installation of an update? It is technically possible on many cars, and this scenario does not seem so far-fetched when we see how governments have reduced individual and collective freedoms without any difficulty during the Covid crisis. With the energy crisis helping, and under the pressure of a few green lobbies, it wouldn’t be more surprising than that for this idea to germinate in the brain of some elected official in need of publicity, too happy to interpret the little music at the end in his own way. abundance. For our own good, of course, and temporarily, of course.

A vision probably dystopian and still difficult to apply given the disparity of the current car fleet, but which would make us realize in a rather brutal way that we are not the owner of our car. And that we are less and less likely to be.

Do not show this article to your MP, it might give him ideas. If not today, maybe in fifteen years.