It may be if Nissan/Renault and Project Better Place have their way.
By George Straton
Over a century ago, Henry Ford wanted to make his products affordable to all Americans. He foresaw the exponential growth of urban sprawl and economic prosperity as a result of personal transport. The proliferation of cars occurred through more or less traditional means of ownership. Ownership of automobiles was considered a sign of prosperity.
In its infancy few could have predicted the transformation of the wireless phone to the ordinary. The wireless phone was not proliferated through traditional notions of consumer ownership. The consumer signs a contract for service for a fixed period of time. They purchase a non-user serviceable handset which is locked to the carrier. Part of the purchase price of the handset is subsidized by the monthly service fee to the carrier. Typically the device battery starts to malfunction a few months past the warranty’s expiration. By that time handset features have so evolved further. Instead of paying for a new battery the majority of consumers just re-up and sign another contract for which they select another handset in return.
It is part of a potentially endless cycle.
Which is what may become of the automobile if a joint venture between the world’s third largest auto maker Nissan/Renault and Project Better Place is successful. This is the same joint venture that will set up pilot programs for municipal vehicle fleets for the cities of San Francisco and Portland. Those pilot programs were outlined by Autosavant’s Brendan Moore in his November 2008 article. Continue Reading →