Would you be better off switching to a sustainable mobility lifestyle partly based on electric mobility?

Alternative mobility lifestyles are often seen as costly compared to owning a conventional car. We provide a basis for discussion and compare total cost of ownership of Swiss conventional car users and three sustainable mobility lifestyles with participants of the Swiss Household Energy Demand Survey conducted in 2020.

The future of private car mobility might be dominantly electric, powered by batteries. However, their environmental impact increases significantly with larger battery sizes. Relying still on car utilization, vehicles with smaller batteries (i.e. smaller car, shorter range) should generally be preferred. We addressed this trade-off between vehicle size, range, and environmental impact by proposing two mobility lifestyles with a small electric vehicle (EV), the first in combination with public transport (EV + PT) and the second in combination with carsharing (EV + CS). We assume that public transport or carsharing is used for trips when the range of the EV is not sufficient, i.e. for trips that exceed 200km per day. We further proposed a third alternative based on a combination of public transport and carsharing/car-rental without car ownership (PT + CS), as this would result in an even more sustainable mobility lifestyle.

Since total cost of ownership (TCO) for a conventional car is still underestimated and EVs still exhibit higher upfront costs than conventional cars, EVs are often perceived to be costlier. With this research, we wanted to investigate whether it is possible that people might be contrariwise even better off by switching to one of the three alternatives. For this purpose, we calculated the TCO for each proposed mobility lifestyle utilizing the information on stated mobility behavior of 845 participants of the Swiss Household Energy Demand Survey (SHEDS), a representative survey of the Swiss population. For example, we used the average kilometers driven per year, the purchase price of the current car and the number of day trips per year exceeding 200km. Together with a method developed by Touring Club Switzerland (TCS), which addresses costs related to depreciation, maintenance, fuel and tires among others, we were thus able to calculate the TCO of the participants current car and the TCO of the proposed alternatives.

Results suggest that roughly 60% of respondents would be financially better off switching to a combination of a small EV for everyday trips until 200km and use public transport for the cases daytrips exceed 200km. Especially for people who currently own a larger car, this alternative would be cheaper. About 30% of the respondents would be better off with a combination of a small EV and carsharing/car-rental. Again, especially people who currently own a large car or SUV would financially benefit by switching to this alternative. Since carsharing is generally more expensive than public transport in Switzerland, the alternative EV + CS is costlier than EV + PT. Finally, in average, everybody would be better off switching to a combination of public transport and carsharing/car-rental without car ownership. Especially people owning larger cars could benefit the most.

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the TCO of multimodal mobility lifestyles compared to a lifestyle based only on conventional private car use. Our results could be relevant for public policy, mobility planners as well as mobility service providers who could use our results for promoting the cost advantages of alternative mobility lifestyles.

We will present the results in the upcoming European Transport Conference on Tuesday 14th of September 2021.

In the next step, we will investigate 3 interventions to increase the likelihood to opt for one of the alternatives instead of keeping a combustion engine car.

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