Auto Manifesto

February 4, 2008

Longer Automotive Lifecycles

Following up on my last post, in the future automobile lifecycles should be longer – much longer. It’s wasteful to make and dispose of them while only using them for a short amount of time (say 10 years and about 150,000 miles). Why not keep them around for 30, 40 or 50 years and make fewer?

As we head toward fully electric vehicles, what’s going to happen is people are going to use more and varied modes of transportation. Different tools for different needs and different times. Urban, suburban, rural, and highway travel are very different from each other and the notion that one (car) is suitable for all of them is going to change.

Each of the vehicles in those areas will become specialized, and therefore get less use per year on average. They’ll simply take longer to wear out. On top of that, they should be designed to be disassembled and overhauled.

Why throw away an entire vehicle when you can simply and systematically remove parts or sections you don’t want and replace it with ones you do, much like with a computer or a building. This could be done with body panels, interiors, and chassis components in addition to powertrain elements.

Electric vehicles will be much simpler to modify and rebuild. There are only three basic components: motors, control systems, and batteries. Eventually everything will be like PCs with plug-and-play. You want to upgrade the motors? Change the wheels. You want to change batteries? Unplug them, take them out, and drop in new ones.

Because if vehicles can’t easily be upgraded, they may become obsolete in a very short amount of time, perhaps a year or two as new and vastly improved technologies hit the market.

And in the medium term why wouldn’t all those car company performance divisions provide the array of parts for people to customize their cars? Sure you might keep the same car for 40 years but you could always revamp it every few years with an endless stream of parts from the likes of AMG, SVT, Mopar, M, F, and TRD.

Cars should be designed for regular upgrading and enhancement, not planned obsolescence.

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