Baby, you can drive my car…


Growing up in Ireland getting a car was a rite of passage. You got a credit union/bank loan and applied for your provisional and away you went, your own means of freedom. It was the sign you had arrived. And today Ireland continues to rely on the car as the main means of transportation, but experts say the trend may soon be away from car ownership with peoples’ appetite for transport alternatives increasing.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) recent report shows new car registrations for the month of January are down slightly -0.2% (25,093) when compared to January 2021 (25,140).

While used car imports saw a 40.8% (4,041) decrease in January, when compared with January 2021 (6,821), new electric car registrations reached their highest month on record with 2,714 registered in January 2022 (+178%), compared to 977 January 2021.

Even though electric cars accounted for 11% of the new car market, an increase of 178% on last year, car sales are 22% behind pre-pandemic levels (2019).

In a recent nationwide survey conducted by Bolt, the European mobility company app, apart from the decrease due to the pandemic the reasons why car owners might choose not to buy a new vehicle or even give up their existing cars are the overall running expenses, rising fuel costs and environmental reasons, with some citing improvement in public transport (24%) and the lack of car parking spaces (13%).

The survey shows more than one-third of drivers (38%) are aiming to reduce the number of car trips they take each week with respondents mainly looking at cutting out driving for recreational trips (43.7%) and one-third (33.5%) looking to stop commuting by private car. A further 27.9% hope to reduce using the car for grocery shopping. Even so, one in 10 (11.6%) Irish car owners feel they can’t give up their vehicle despite the options available.

Bolt, which launched in Dublin in 2020, has an alternative for its already thousands of drivers on its platform. They aim to “build cities for people, not cars”. They offer a “use as you need”, operation with a range of mobility services including shared cars, e-bikes, scooter hire, and food and grocery delivery. These services are already provided to more than 100 million customers in 45 countries across Europe and Africa and they are looking to further roll out the operation in Ireland.

Commenting on the findings, Aisling Dunne, Head of Public Policy for Bolt Ireland, said: “Bolt’s mission is to reduce the need for private car ownership through offering multiple transport modes in the same app. We believe Ireland has the highest potential for doing this, as there is intrinsic high car usage, but many journeys are short. The research supports a clear willingness to look at alternative means of transport.

“Therefore, Bolt is to start a major drive to track sentiment as they wish to support drivers taking the initiative to give up the private car with long term choices.”

But what are the options and are they viable? According to those surveyed. to decrease their car usage they would look towards the bus and train with 37% and 12% respectively considering the move to each form of public transport.

A total of 15% of respondents would give up the car and use a bike and 8% would consider electric scooters. Nearly 10% of the respondents would opt for a taxi while 11% would be open to the idea of car rental.

This shows that a range of transport offerings will be needed to get a wide-scale shift in behaviour, but over 70% (72.7%) would estimate they would need to hire a car at least once per week if they were to give up the use of their private vehicle. But, most importantly, availability, price and the flexibility of the service will be key factors if the process is to work.

Bolt believe Ireland has the required characteristics to reach world-leading levels of shared car ownership. They are seeing significant shifts in how people use these services in areas where they have rolled out the model and believe there is evidence that this additional flexibility is being sought by Dublin drivers and those in other major cities in Ireland.
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