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Driving in the wrong lane: towards a change in paradigm for optimal passenger car lifespans.
thesisposted on 2023-06-09, 19:41 authored by Alexandre Rodrigues
Passenger cars are responsible for high demands of energy and materials, both from manufacturing and use stage; raw material resource extraction, transformation, use and disposal. Their energy and material efficiencies are far from perfect, despite the car, and its incumbent industry, being present and influential in society for almost a century and half. The premise of car design, manufacturing process, business model and use have scarcely evolved or changed drastically. Nations have been producing and consuming this product unsustainably. The surge of developing nations and their consumption demands is adding further pressure on resources and energy use. This PhD is focused on how to reduce passenger car impacts through two alternative consumption models; longer lifespans (extensive) and car share (intensive). These may contribute towards a necessary transition of the overall incumbent car regime and its different elements – business models, design, manufacturing, sales, usage and disposal – towards more sustainable use of materials and energy by reducing their demand and consumption. It aims to understand the role of some of its different actors but also to understand why alternative - and less impactful - forms of car use have not succeeded and how a transition to a different car regime can be triggered. The literature review looked critically into the automotive industry's failure to become more sustainable. It compared extensive and intensive use, the desirable design aspects of the former and impacts of the latter. It looked into transition models, car cultures, their influence in car consumption and use. Finally, it discussed how personal behaviour can have a role in changing norms and attitudes in societies. Two different sets of research interviews, three informative interviews and a consumer survey were undertaken to collect data to help fulfil the aims and objectives of this research. The three interviews aimed to understand the different business models, incumbent car industry, start-up car manufacturers and car sharing business models respectively. The first set of - exploratory -interviews with car designers and engineers helped to explain the barriers and opportunities of car design for extensive and intensive use. It raised questions about society's readiness for such alternative forms of consumption. The second set of interviews looked into the systemic barriers of car sharing; the role of policy, society, technology and the shift from ownership to shared use. It also explored the service-life of shared cars. Finally, the consumer survey helped to explain the attitudes, norms and behaviour of car users and verify some assumptions made throughout the different interview sets. There are substantially more obstacles to purposely designed cars to have an extensive lifespan than for an intensive one. Nonetheless, some aspects of design for longevity can be adopted by designers to optimise the lifespan of cars. Consumer behaviour may also be of key importance in extending passenger car lifespans. The set of interviews with car sharing experts and the consumer survey explored and analysed reasons behind the low uptake of and readiness towards car sharing in order to understand barriers and opportunities. Interview and survey data were thematically and systematically analysed. If the vision of less unsustainable, socio-technical transition of car usage is taking place, from a top-down technological approach, there is no equivalent change in the social, bottom-up car ownership culture. Given that policy makers are systemically compromised - by the relevant stakeholders - where they operate, changes in ownership culture could stimulate and mandate the necessary policy action where relevant. It is also debatable if the promised lower impact of car sharing is occurring. Car share has a lower uptake, cars are driven low annual mileages and have a short service life. This research contributes to the understanding of how the social facet of socio-technical transitions can help replace the car culture status-quo and provide opportunities for nudge policy action using Cultural Theory and the Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour. The research reports on consumer mindfulness of car sharing and barriers and drivers for social transitions towards different cultures of car ownership and use. The data brings new insights into UK car consumers, addressing calls for understanding car user behaviour, and creating mechanisms to overtake the car culture status quo.
- Published version
Department affiliated with
- Engineering and Design Theses
InstitutionNottingham Trent University
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