Automotive Lubricants

The Evolution of Personal Mobility


The Evolution of Personal Mobility
© Ljupco Smokovski; pozitivo; twilight mist; FourLeafLover; Pixel-Shot

For several decades, the internal combustion engine (ICE) ruled the personal mobility kingdom with almost absolute power. Today, ICEs are still dominant. But they now have a bit of competition, as original equipment manufacturers have begun to shift their focus to other, lower-emissions technologies, namely hybrid and battery electric vehicles.

With this in mind, is the personal mobility landscape gearing up for some major changes in the coming years? Will ICEs really be phased out at the rather quick rate that many experts have been predicting? Or might certain factors slow any potential changes?  

And beyond increasing electrification of the global car parc, what other factors might change the personal mobility landscape in the coming years? 

Mobility Trends 

“Although electrification is a major trend right now and could make major shifts in the market, there is much more to electrification at the moment. The market is changing rapidly and racing toward a new world, which is driven by changing consumer preferences, technological advances and a strong focus on environmental concerns and sustainability,” said Kline and Co.’s Jasmine Bedi, product lead – mobility solutions, energy practice and automotive subject matter expert, during a January 17 webinar. “The personal mobility market is becoming more complex day by day, and it is definitely not a traditional landscape like it used to be before.” 

How can the industry anticipate how the personal mobility market will change? 

“It is very critical to form a comprehensive approach to see how the emerging ecosystem will drive the future collectively, not just electrification alone,” Bedi said. “We have tried developing some scenarios about how the global car market will develop up until 2050. For instance, there could be multiple possible scenarios of how global car sales will pan out in the future. One possible scenario would be that we could see greater dependence on shared mobility and micromobility. We see a need for personal mobility in that case. It’s going to peak at some point in the near future, and in that case, we see new car sales coming down.” 

Bedi explained that another possible direction for personal mobility is that ever-increasing disposable income, urbanization and population growth—especially in Asia-Pacific—could lead to a growing desire for consumers to own their own personal vehicles. This would, of course, lead to an almost opposite outcome in which car sales would actually increase in the next 20-30 years.  

In a brief survey that Kline posed during the January 17 webinar, the company asked participants which trends they believe will have the most significant impact on the global personal mobility market in the next five years. One of the most popular answers was unsurprisingly related to sustainability concerns.  

“Sustainability concerns, yes,” Bedi said. “But sustainability concerns are much more than just EVs and much more than just the carbon emissions that need to be taken care of. In the next five years, because of the stringent regulations, we believe that widespread adoption of EVs will experience faster growth.”  

However, some industry players are not as optimistic about the rate at which EV sales will grow. “EVs will not replace internal combustion engine vehicles anytime soon, although they will grow in share,” said Steve Haffner, president of SGH Consulting. “Demand for engine oils will not go away, and higher performing demand will even grow as legacy products disappear. Recent decisions have been made by OEMs to slow e-mobility investment and reconsider conventional hybrids. Hertz announced EVs are just too costly to buy and maintain and that customers do not want to be bothered with planning how to keep vehicle charged, especially in cold climates. It’s also been highlighted that EVs may not make sense for all consumers and all environments and that building the infrastructure will take a long time.” 

Kline’s in-webinar survey also asked participants which mobility solution they think has the highest potential to disrupt traditional car ownership in the next five to seven years. Ridesharing and carpooling were the most popular answers, followed by micromobility.  

According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, micromobility is a “range of small, lightweight devices operating at speeds typically below 25 kilometers per hour (15 miles per hour).” 

Vehicles fitting into this category of mobility include bicycles and scooters, especially electric versions that may be borrowed as part of a self-service rental program.  

“Micromobility is gaining traction in very few countries at the moment,” Bedi said. “It should take some time for micromobility to gain more traction. Ridesharing and carpooling will see more traction, more growth, for at least the next five or six years.”  

Contributing Factors 

Of course, certain trends in personal mobility may seem like common knowledge. But there are several factors at play that can and likely will influence markets around the globe.  

What are some of those factors, and how will they affect the personal mobility landscape between now and, say, 2050? 

To answer that question, Bedi posed a hypothetical situation: Consider that a lubricant producer that sells into the Indian market wants to better understand whether India will follow a growth trajectory that is similar to China’s or whether it will take a completely different path.  

“Let’s assume that the company supplies traditional oils and wants to expand business to EV fluids as well,” Bedi said. “To be able to understand that, we need to draw a comparison between two countries on the factors that basically affect the core of the issue, which is the need for private car ownership as well as economy growth.”  

Other factors that Bedi suggested might help such a lubricant manufacturer to make the best business decisions include the balance of each respective vehicle technology (i.e., ICEs, EVs and hybrids) available in each country as well as how that ratio is expected to change in the coming years. It is also important to consider what demand looks like for passenger car motor oil (PCMO) and EV fluids in each country and how demand is likely to shift in the next several years, among other things. 

“When you see the comparisons, it is a well-known fact that there is a huge gap between the economy growth of India and China,” Bedi said. “China has at least five times the GDP per capita when compared to India.”  

However, Kline believes that this gap in GDP will narrow significantly by 2050, as India is now experiencing rapid urbanization as well as an increase in disposable income and the working-age population. 

The size of the personal car parc in both India and China is another factor that could inform the lubricant manufacturer. According to Kline’s data, China currently houses more cars per every 1,000 people than India does. But as we inch toward 2050, China’s personal vehicle population is expected to decrease, while India’s will likely see a marked increase. 

Overall, though, the personal vehicle penetration is “extremely low in India when compared to China, and there is a huge scope of increase,” Bedi said. “Meanwhile, the private car ownership in China will reach its peak soon, and we believe the motorization should peak before 2040—maybe 2038 or 2039. It all depends on how good the public infrastructure is or what is the popularity of shared mobility and whatever other factors that are prohibiting people from having their own private cars.” 

It would also be important to consider how fast the car parc in India can realistically be electrified, Bedi said. According to Kline’s data, both China and India housed mostly ICE-powered vehicles in 2022. About 97% of all cars were ICEs in India, while 95% of personal vehicles in China were ICEs.  

“China has seen a good growth in hybrids and electric vehicles” since 2022, Bedi said. “So being a forerunner in e-mobility, China is expected to see more than 65% of its vehicles become fully electric” by 2050. There will also be a significant number of hybrid vehicles in the country by the same year—about 21%. The growth of the EV population in the country is supported in part by government subsidies as well as other incentives and initiatives.  

In India, demand for EVs and private vehicles is on a growth path right now, Bedi said, and the country’s government is working toward developing adequate charging infrastructure to support a larger EV population.  

Demand for EV fluids is expected to grow gradually through 2050 as the car parc in India becomes increasingly electrified. This will happen at the detriment of PCMO, Bedi said, demand for which will likely peak around 2045.  

In China, the outlook for EV fluid and PCMO demand looks different than it does in India. “China has already experienced a period of fast EV growth, and the demand for personal cars will eventually decline due to popularity of shared mobility. The car parc is also expected to reach its peak around 2035 and 2037,” Bedi said. “So we expect that demand for PCMO is already declining, and we expect that EV fluid will see its peak by 2040.”  


All in all, the personal mobility landscape is changing in most countries around the world due to more factors than just electrification.  

“The industry, as you know, is racing toward a new world. There are changing consumer preferences, which are moving from ownership to usership,” Bedi said. “There are autonomous cars on the way, and there is shared mobility gaining traction and rising demand for connected vehicles.”  

Although the increasing popularity of shared mobility will likely slow global car sales at some point in the future, it will not stall it altogether and will instead provide opportunities for automakers, lubricant suppliers and other mobility players “to identify new growth opportunities in terms of non-traditional partnerships in the new mobility ecosystem,” Bedi said.   

Editor’s Note: Kline now offers its clients access to its Personal Mobility Intelligence Center, which is a single source for mapping the evolution of the personal mobility landscape. It includes information on shared and personal mobility but excludes public transportation.

Sydney Moore is managing editor of Lubes’n’Greases magazine. Contact her at