In my post about some redevelopment in Shoreview I mentioned the likely closing of the Hill Blacksmith shop in the coming years. Some took exception, saying that they didn’t think it very likely, especially since it was built only recently in 1883.
We’ve used horses for centuries and they’ve served us well. I do think that the wagons with gasoline engines will become much more commonplace though and one day I think it will even be common to see dozens go by in a single day. People say they can’t go very far but there are rumors that Bertha Benz drove her husband’s wagon 66 miles in a single day to see her mother.
Oh wait, that was my August 1889 post for streets.mn.
In my internet blog post about the redevelopment of the NE corner of Hodgson & Hiway 96 in Shoreview I mentioned the likely closing of the BP gas station in the coming years. Some took exception, saying that they didn’t think it very likely.
Gasoline engines have served us well, but nobody who test drives an electric car wants to go backwards.
Why This Matters For Cities
Planning for what their communities will look like in the future is a key job for cities. Those that plan well do well and those who plan poorly see falling housing values, falling tax revenue, and increased problems from all directions.
One important element today is increasing pressure from home buyers for communities rather than high speed multi-lane suburbs. People want communities that are walkable and bikeable and that include daily amenities like schools, groceries, eateries, and pharmacies very close by–typically within two miles. Predicting future land-use needs here is critical. Knowing that a gas station will no longer be on a corner changes the calculus on what that corner and surrounding area can look and feel like in five years. More on this later. Let’s look at why our gas stations will disappear.
Drivers Of Change
Downward pressure on gas sales and the demise of gas stations (and muffler shops and repair shops) will come from two directions; decrease in driving and increase in PHEV and BEV vehicles.
There has already been considerable downward pressure on gas sales from people driving less. This particularly among Millennials but also a bit among all generations. People are increasingly choosing to walk and bike more for their daily transportation and to live where they can. Carless and car-lite families are becoming more and more common.
People are also waiting longer to get their driver’s license, if at all. Ten years ago 44% of 16 year olds had a license, today that’s 29%. This is largely chalked up to parents (and teens) not thinking it safe. The increasing costs of insurance don’t help and social media has played a role as well.
These, combined with improved fuel efficiency, have already led to an over 7% decline in gasoline sales over the past 10 years (measured in gallons sold).
The nail in the coffin will I think come from batteries.
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf (above) that have no gas engine will have a moderate impact initially and a major impact by 2020. While these are not overly common in Minnesota today, their numbers are increasing and this will begin to accelerate in 2017 with the introduction of numerous BEVs with longer range and lower prices.
BEVs are very common in California, Seattle, Portland, and Atlanta where they now account for 4-8% of new vehicles. They’re increasingly common in St Paul, Boston, Denver and Washington, DC. On the other hand you can drive around Birmingham, Alabama for a week and not see a single one. A fairly normal geographic adoption pattern of new technology similar to what was seen with flat screen TVs replacing CRTs?
At the close of 2015 there were three viable electric cars available; Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and BMW i3. By the end of 2017 there will be at least 12 with additions from Tesla (Model X & Model 3), BMW (i5), Chevy (Bolt), Audi (Q8 & Q5) and others. At least five more are coming in 2018 including two from Volvo, whose CEO recently stated that they expect at least 10% of global sales to be BEV by 2020.
At the very least there is considerable momentum with BEVs.
Perhaps most important is that people in Minnesota are increasingly thinking of battery electric cars as a viable transportation option which was not the case just one year ago.
Better Fuel Economy of Internal Combustion Engine cars will have a minor impact. Most manufacturers, Subaru excepted, are no longer investing much in improvement to these and focusing more on BEV and PHEV vehicles. The greatest impact here will be as older and more gas hungry cars are retired from service which will raise the average MPG of those remaining.
Possibly the greatest impact will be from Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) that I’ll look at in Part II along with other factors and a shot at some predictions.