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Survey reveals: A smaller car is an intermediate step when switching to electric transport - shared cars do not get support

The car fleet is becoming increasingly electrified, but is an electric car the only option when moving to greener traffic? According to a survey conducted by Drivalia Lease Finland, the respondents are ready to switch to a smaller car if it can reduce emissions. VTT's Mikko Pihlatie recommends choosing a car according to individual needs. Lassi Aarniovuori from LUT University states that the future of driving will be electric in any case.
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In February, car leasing company Drivalia Lease Finland asked a thousand consumers if they would be ready to switch to a smaller car for the sake of environmental friendliness. 43 percent are ready for it, but 34 percent do not want to change to a smaller car. 23 percent of the respondents did not have a car.

More than half of the respondents, or 55 percent, could use a carpool when going to work or hobbies. A good 7 percent already takes advantage of them. A shared car does not get support; 52 percent could not use a shared car, but 31 percent could use one. Just under 2 percent already use a shared car.

– The result of our survey shows that people do not want or cannot give up their own car for the sake of environmental friendliness. The respondents position was clear: 58 percent cannot give up their car, but 22 percent could be without a car in the future. According to The Finnish Information Centre of Automobile Sector, there were approximately 2.7 million passenger cars in Finland at the end of 2022, or an average of 493 cars for every thousand inhabitants. Although the figure seems large, according to the statistics, the car density in our country is slightly lower than the average in the EU, says Drivalia Lease Finland’s Commercial Director Vesa Kalske.

All driving forces in parallel

What would be the best ways to switch to more emission-free passenger cars? VTT's research professor Mikko Pihlatie says that there are three main things in transition:

– The first is to completely leave out unnecessary kilometers. A kilometer not driven is always the cleanest and most emission-free. Another way is to choose the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly means of transportation, i.e. walking, cycling, and using public transport in urban areas. The third way is to switch to low-emission driving forces in vehicles, such as clean electricity, Pihlatie lists.

In Pihlatie's opinion, all options are needed in the transport solutions of the green transition, and the driving forces should be promoted in parallel. ​ Lassi Aarniovuori, assistant professor of electric transport at LUT University, also supports the versatile use and development of all driving forces, but states that the future of motoring will be electric in any case.

– The driving force of the future is electricity, which can either be used directly from a battery or the energy can be indirectly stored in, for example, a hydrogen derivative or hydrogen.

Choosing the size of the car based on needs

Pihlatie and Aarniovuori are not surprised that, according to the survey, consumers are ready to switch to a smaller car. A smaller and low-consumption internal combustion engine is a real alternative alongside electrification. Less raw materials are also needed for their production.

– We should think more about what we need a car for in everyday life, Pihlatie says relating to the size of the car.

He believes that consumer choice is also influenced by the fact that we are used to owning a car and we are used to choosing the size of a car according to rare needs instead of the average everyday need. The car is chosen depending on whether you need to tow a trailer or go on a road trip once or twice a year, even if the everyday need is less.

– Here is where shared or rented cars could fit in the future, Pihlatie suggests.

– If a household has two cars, at least one of them could be a smaller car that truly fits everyday use. However, a car is still a status symbol for us, Aarniovuori surmises.

Drivalia’s Kalske notes that there are also different mobility needs when it comes to company cars. A low-emission and low-consumption internal combustion engine car is a reasonable option, for example, if home charging cannot be arranged or charging is otherwise difficult.

– Modern combustion engine cars are significantly more environmentally friendly than the old models that are going off the market, Kalske says.

Electrification requires a price decrease

Both researchers are happy that more affordable plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars under 30,000 euros have entered the market. The transition to electric cars began reluctantly with large, heavy, and expensive cars, although a quantitative change in the car fleet will only succeed when small and medium-sized cars are massively introduced.

Pihlatie proposes various installment solutions that could be used to renew the car fleet and facilitate the transition to green.

How electric will we be in 2030?

Pihlatie believes that by the end of the current decade, a big change in the electrification of the car fleet will be a fact, because the share of electric cars among first-time registrations is increasing strongly. Aarniovuori suspects that 2030 may come too quickly considering the goals.

– Combustion engine cars will not disappear in ten years. Their reduction requires that driving with a combustion engine is not worthwhile. We just have to wait, because the development of electric cars is in the early stages, and they will develop a lot during the next decade. For example, car charging technology will change even more dramatically, Aarniovuori states. The transition to greener traffic requires control measures.

– Some control measures are already in place, such as the distribution obligation to promote biofuels, the CO2 gradation of the car tax, and subsidies for electric cars and charging. The key to goal-oriented control is that a price is set for emissions, meaning that using fossil fuel will become even more expensive compared to clean energy alternatives. Electricity is an energy-efficient and inexpensive driving force from the get-go, and the low cost of use compensates for the more expensive purchase price of an electric car, especially for those who drive a lot. Fossil fuel tax reductions do not promote greener traffic, Pihlatie summarizes.

The survey was done by Syno International as an Omnibus panel between 8th and 12th of February 2024. The survey had 1,000 Finnish respondents over the age of 18. The sample is demographically representative of the population.More information: Kaisa Tiira-Vahala, Marketing Manager +358 40 154 3836

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March 6, 2024
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