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Remember when people used to own cars?

When I have the choice, I usually prefer to purchase things rather than rent or lease them. With some notable exceptions (mobile phones being one of them), I outright own just about everything in my personal possession. Now perhaps I’m paying off the purchase price via a loan, but at the end of the day I will own these items, and not have to worry about infringing the rights of the actual owner. I can paint my living room purple if I want. I can rip the sleeves off of my long sleeve shirt. I can drive my car for 16,000 miles if I want.

Well, ownership of cars may go away.

Yes, I know that car leasing has been around for decades. But I’m talking about something even more restrictive. Let’s welcome Digital Rights Management (DRM) to automobiles. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Forget extra cupholders or power windows: the new Renault Zoe comes with a “feature” that absolutely nobody wants. Instead of selling consumers a complete car that they can use, repair, and upgrade as they see fit, Renault has opted to lock purchasers into a rental contract with a battery manufacturer and enforce that contract with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging at all.

Also see Boing Boing and Dave Hill, and you’ll see discussions about “rooting” your car.

But if you’re comfortable with the idea of renting your car battery, remember that at least in the UK, you rent by the mile. (Which seems odd, when you consider that the United Kingdom is a metric country, and Renault is a French firm.) For example, on a 36 month contract with 7,500 miles per year, you pay £70 per month. On the other hand, a 12 month contract with 12,000 miles results in a £113 monthly payment. You can’t sign a contract with over 12,000 miles per year; like your usual lease setup, you pay for extra miles.

Renault justifies its practice as follows:

You wouldn’t pay for a lifetime’s worth of fuel in one go when you buy your car, so why should you buy your battery in one hit? Most electric vehicles are more expensive to buy initially than their petrol or diesel counterparts, because of the cost of the battery. At Renault, we spread the cost of the battery out over the lifetime of the car, not just the time when you own it. So you don’t have pay for it all at once. This makes the car less expensive than you might think.

Refreshing, eh?

I assume that Renault doesn’t own its headquarters building.

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