Stop press! Carsharing is apparently not dead after all.*

We always enjoy a good knock-up on World Streets. Keeps us thinking. After yesterday’s piece in which Nicolas le Douarec undertook to stretch our minds and challenge us to consider carsharing from some other perspectives, including apparently in a coffin, we hear today from an old friend Michael Glotz-Richter from Bremen who has been orchestrating carsharing in his city and trans-European collaboration in the field for the last decade, running an EU program which currently goes by the somewhat mystifying acronym of momo (see below). Here is what Michael has to say about yesterday’s reported corpse.

Spreading carsharing in Europe: the momo project

- Michael Glotz-Richter, Senior Advisor Sustainable Mobility, Bremen

Today, there are more than 400.000 carsharing users in Europe. Especially in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and in the UK (London) carsharing is very well developed. However, there are still many cities in Europe that do not (yet) possess any carsharing service.

This unbalanced situation gives the European carsharing project momo (“more options for energy efficient mobility”) an additional value – as it has partners from the Czech Republic and from Greece, being newcomers in the carsharing development, and partners with a lot of carsharing experience. The momo project wants to achieve at least 20.000 additional carsharing users in the partner sites.

The leading showcases are Bremen, Brussels and a number of other Belgian cities because of their active involvement of the Public Transport operators and their experiences in transferring carsharing practice to “newcomers”.

Benefits of carsharing

Carsharing has a number of very positive impacts on the urban environment and on travel behaviour:

- Carsharing vehicles replace four to ten private cars – an important step to reclaiming street space for better purposes than car parking.

- Carsharing makes it possible to choose the most adequate vehicle for your trip. As smaller cars cost less than larger ones, downsizing is stimulated, which leads to the reduction of fuel consumption and CO2-emission.

- The pay-as-you-drive principle makes you more aware of the costs of an individual trip – which encourages the use of more sustainable modes.

- In conjunction with a modern fleet of low emission cars, the modal shift leads to a significant reduction of transport-related CO2-emissions (about 200 – 290 kg CO2 per active user per year).

The momo project urges the EC to take more actions to exploit the full potential of carsharing for all European cities. Extrapolating the success of existing carsharing experiences to the EU25, Europe could realise a reduction of CO2 emissions of about 850.000 tons and the removal of more than 500.000 private cars from urban street space, reclaiming more than 2500 hectares of urban space.

Moreover, carsharing seems to fit very well in the newly emerging urban lifestyle. Latest trends among young urban dwellers show that the car is no longer “hip”, carsharing is “cool” and big cars are rather for elderly men – sometimes called “Viagra in chrome” (Source: Timescout 2008 Trend Study (DE)).

The Bremen showcase

The city of Bremen, Germany, is a forerunner in the field of carsharing. Today there are more than 6,200 carsharing users in Bremen (for roughly 547.000 inhabitants).

Carsharing has had an important impact on the parking demand in inner city areas, substituting about 1500 private cars.

To obtain a similar effect by building garages, an investment of 25 to 40 million euros would have been necessary! In 2009, the municipality developed a “Carsharing Action Plan”. This plan defines the target of reaching at least 20.000 carsharing users in 2020 (four times more than in early 2009).

Elements of this action plan are a network of on-street inner-city carsharing stations (“mobil.punkt”), enhanced awareness work (e.g. campaign “Would you buy a cow for a glass of milk?”) and integration into urban development, public transport offers and fleet management. Bremen was selected to present its experiences with carsharing at the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai. Have a look at the carsharing information website they developed for the visitors of the EXPO.

A booming business

The fact that carsharing is a growing market, is proven by the many carsharing companies that are going multinational, like Greenwheels, Cambio, Mobility Carsharing International and Connect by Hertz.

In the USA, operator Zipcar has grown substantially. It has gone oversees by merging with the UK operator Streetcar and is now in the process of becoming a public company, quoted on the stock exchange.

Integration with public transport

In 2009, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) has created the Seamless or Combined Mobility Platform, as a successor to the former umbrella organisation European Car Sharing (ECS) and the UITP Carsharing Platform. This platform underlines the need for public transport providers to form alliances with taxi, bike and carsharing providers as to allow customers to travel easily from door-to-door without using a private car.

Carsharing has been found to increase public transport use (find some statistics here). That is why plenty of public transport providers have engaged in partnerships with carsharing providers, ensuring carsharing stations in the vicinity of public transport stations, or developing joint subscriptions or discounts. See for instance this bus+car, train+car and taxi+car offer from the Canadian operator Communauto. You can find some tips for setting up a fruitful partnership in UITP’s Bremen Paper.

In the Netherlands, company carsharing provider Mobility Mixx (NL) saw the importance of the integration of carsharing and public transport. It expanded its offer to become a full-range mobility service provider, including carsharing, hire cars, public transport reservations, park and ride, trip advice and mobility budget management.

Building alliances with cities and companies

For public and private fleet owners (municipalities, companies) carsharing can be the perfect solution to reduce fleet size and save on maintenance costs. More and more of them engage in partnerships with local carsharing operators.

In some cases, the shared vehicles are exclusively available to the employees of the municipality or company during office hours. In the evening and weekends, the same vehicles can be reserved by other members of the carsharing service. See for instance the example from the cities of Berkeley (USA) and Vancouver (Canada), in this collection of newspaper articles.

Municipalities can also play an important role in providing on street parking or other parking support to carsharing operators. In Austin, Texas, Car2go made a “no-cost deal” with the City of Austin. In return for free parking in any legal parking space, the city gets free use of car2go for city employees. (more on car2go below)

Easy-to-use and clean vehicles

As both the offer and the market for carsharing grow, a lot of technological progress is made to improve the carsharing service. Now that online reservation applications are a common good, smartphone apps are on the rise to check availability and make reservations (see for instance the screenshots from the American AutoShare app).

To improve both user friendliness and safety, new technologies are being developed to access the cars. Most shared cars are opened with a smart card (e.g. AutoShare Keycard), but in some locations you can open a shared car with your cell phone ( e.g. City Car Club in Finland, Sweden and Estonia). For carsharing operators, advanced software is available to manage every aspect of the carsharing service (e.g. Mobisys by Mobility Switzerland).

There is also a major trend for introducing clean vehicles into the shared cars fleet. According to a recent research report, one out of five carsharing vehicles will be electric by 2016. The NICHES+ project developed some guidelines for using electric vehicles in city carshare schemes.

The region of Paris, France, leads the way with its large-scale car sharing system called Autolib’ (FR), to be operational in October 2011 (EN information here). The region imposed the revolutionary condition that all 3000 Autolib’ vehicles should be electric cars. Another important asset of the Autolib’ system will be the one-way service: as in the bikesharing scheme Velolib’, Autolib’ users do not have to return their vehicle to the station they took it from. They can drop it off at any Autolib’ station.

Private carsharing

Up until now, this e-update has discussed carsharing organised by professional operators. Another rapidly growing trend is for private individuals to share a car within a carsharing group or to hire out their own car to others. It is called private, personal or peer-to-peer carsharing. The momo website features a fact sheet on private carsharing.

In Belgium, the Flemish centre for private carsharing Autopia (NL) allows individuals to subscribe and receive support to start a private carsharing group. Once the group is formed, Autopia offers services like an online reservation calendar, a specialised insurance policy, templates for contracts and regulations, calculation tools to determine prices, etc. Some cities support Autopia members by offering free parking spaces, free parking cards or free Autopia membership.

In the UK, Whipcar is an online platform for hiring out or renting a privately owned car. In the USA, peer-to-peer (p2p) carsharing is rapidly emerging too, with the establishment of services like RelayRides. Read more about private carsharing in this blogpost.

* Reproduced with the permission of the authors, the above is based on a text written by Michael Glotz-Richter and Michael Frömming (momo@umwelt.bremen.de) that appeared in an Epomm e-update of 30 March 2011

# # #

About the author:

Michael Glotz-Richter is Senior Advisor “Sustainable Mobility” in the City of Bremen’s Department for Environment, Construction, Transport and European Affairs. He has served as initiator and coordinator of several EU projects on Car-Sharing like “moses” (Mobility Services for Urban Sustainability) 2001-2005 and the current intolerably named project in the EU-energy-efficiency-program: “momo Car-Sharing” (“more options for energy-efficient mobility through Car-Sharing”).
References: www.momo-cs.eu – Contact: momo@umwelt.bremen.de

EPOMM Newsletter:

This newsletter which you can access at http://epomm.eu/newsletter/electronic/0208_EPOMM_enews.html is an excellent source of carsharing progress in Europe. EPOMM is the European Platform on Mobility Management, a network of governments in European countries that are engaged in Mobility Management (MM). They are represented by the Ministries that are responsible for MM in their countries. EPOMM is organised as an international non profit organisation with seat in Brussels. Its main aims are :

  • To promote and further develop Mobility Management in Europe
  • To support active information exchange and learning on Mobility Management between European countries

World Streets on carsharing. We have been at this for quite a long time in an independent capacity, and in addition to the sixty odd articles posted here over the last three years that you will find in our archives here — http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/category/sharing/carshare/ – you may also want to check out our World Carshare Consortium which has brought together several hundred operators, researchers, policy makers and interested citizens since 1997 that you can access at www.worldcarshare.com, the Forum at http://tinyurl.com/carshare-cafe , and most recently the dedicated Facebook Group at http://tinyurl.com/wcs-facebook

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