Whilst young people are the most likely group to want to own and drive an electric car in the next ten years, many are now choosing not to drive at all.
Passing your driving test and getting behind the wheel was once the dream of most young people - certainly that was the case when I got my licence in the late 1980s. But today’s young people are choosing not to drive in much greater numbers. In 1992-94, almost half of 17 to 24 year-olds could drive. Now, that has dropped to 29%. There is a clear trend for people to learn to drive later in life than previously. In the 1990s, 80% of people could drive by the age of 30. Nowadays, it’s not until they reach the age of 45 that 80 of people can drive.
Young people’s reasons for not learning to drive include the cost of lessons and the high costs of car ownership, with young men hit particularly hard by motoring insurance premiums. Average annual premiums for those under 25 now stand at around £2,000, which is understandably putting plenty of young people off the idea of driving. Fuel costs are also much higher now.
Of course, the way we live our lives has changed drastically in this time too. Young people are likely to spend more time interacting with their friends online and spend less time actually seeing them in person. Social media has effectively removed the need to be in any given place in order to hang out with your friends. The rise of internet shopping has reduced and in some cases almost eliminated people’s need to go to the shops. And many people now work from home for part or all of their working lives, with the internet and mobile technology making this possible too.
In cities, public transport is generally pretty good, whilst the mobile internet and the existence of companies like Uber mean that it can be a lot cheaper and quicker to get where you want to go by paying someone else to drive the car.
It’s not the same story in rural areas however, where public transport tends to be infrequent or even non-existent. As a result, country dwellers are more likely to still be using their cars for most of the journeys they have to make.
But whilst in the countryside cars are still very much needed to get around, overall the traffic on our roads has increased by just 2% from 2007 to 2016. In the 1980s, traffic grew by 50%. There are now 20% fewer commuter trips than there were in the 1990 and people are spending almost a day less per year travelling than they were in 2002.
The government is expected next week to predict an increase in traffic on our roads of between 20% and 60% by 2040. This could be wildly inaccurate and in turn lead to money being spent in the wrong way. Instead of building more roads to accommodate increases in traffic that may never happen, perhaps more money should be spent on improving public transport, cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways. That would have the effect of improving people’s health by encouraging them to get more exercise, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.