Carsharing is one of those areas of sustainable transport where people really know what they are dong. There is plenty of theory behind it but to get the job done one needs to be on top of the details and active on the ground — whether at the level of the operators or start-us, or for those rare public officials who understand their importance and get invovled, at the level of the city and more broadly. Given this, it is a miracle that we are able to get our any of busy colleagues to take the time away from their pressing responsibilities to share with us all their understanding and vision of carsharing in their country. This latest country survey provides excellent coverage of the situation in Sweden, thanks to Per Schillander of the SRA.
CAR SHARING IN SWEDEN, MARCH 2010
This is a basic description of Car Sharing in Sweden in 2010, as it appears in the SRA approach*.
STATUS IN SWEDEN
Developments in Sweden lagged a few years after the pioneering countries. Today the situation is similar for car share organizations (CSO) in many countries, with an increasingly self-sustaining and stable commercial car share industry and a number of smaller CSOs, run by local associations.
In Sweden there are currently two major commercial car share contractors, City Car Club and SunFleet Carsharing. Over the past year we have seen Bilpoolen.se and Ekobilpool appear as small competitors in Stockholm. While the two big handle about 150 and 300 vehicles respectively, the new ones only a handful of cars. Moreover, there are some small pilot projects for electric vehicles in a car share organization.
The local association car share groups are more, about 40, but deals in total with about 150 cars. Most have no ambition to grow and is unlikely to play any significant role in the continued development. The exceptions are in the current situation of Gothenburg car coop with 35 cars and Stockholm car share and Lund car share with a dozen cars each. These three have, together with a couple of other (big) car share organizations in the Nordic countries, a common reservation system and see themselves as major stakeholders in a future, bigger and more niched market. The same reservation system is also used by SunFleet Carsharing, which opens for an operational partnership. Possibly several small CSOs will change direction and move towards a more proactive role on a local market.
Besides these two types of open/public car share organizations are, at businesses and public administrations, a widespread and growing numbers of closed fleets. The workplace has a number of vehicles for official business and these, in varying degrees, are run like a car share operation.
A wide range of local governments have, supported by SRA, introduced internal car share organizations and thus increased the efficiency of their vehicle handling. A dozen public administrations (municipalities, provincial governments etc.) have taken a step further and procured the car share service by an external provider – any of the above mentioned. The latter is also an opportunity to open the fleet for businesses and the public – a development that benefits all parties and that the SRA supports.
The possibility of opening the CSO for multiple customers is often the main arguments for the tendering of the service. It is worth noting that these procurements of fleets stand for the largest growth in the industry. The picture below illustrate a desirable evolution in how a company or organization looks upon and deals with their cars and car travel. On the lowest level, they don’t really care. As climbing up the following stairs they develop a greater amount of responsibility, accurate monitoring and higher qualities. The “final stair” I reached when the company procures an open CSO, sharing the vehicles with others in the city.
In addition to its own public procurement several players act for more car sharing. Skåne Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Travel in the Umeå region, and the county associations in Dalarna, Örebro, Östergötland and Västra Götaland are some active regional partners. Efforts are also made in several places linking car sharing with public transport. Practical collaborations are still only running in Gothenburg and Stockholm.
The website http://www.bilpool.nu, run by SNA, had the last year a significantly better appearance and function. Its main function is to show where the country’s shared cars are stationed. Despite the relatively anonymous existence it is already a rather well-attended site and raises the interest for cooperation in our major cities. The page is also useful for capturing the general issues of and interest in car sharing. On the page is also available the published statistics for car share organizations in Sweden 2009.
Car share organizations with more than 10-20 cars, free resources by installing an administrative support system. The development of telematics for car sharing has been a major issue throughout the 1990s. Administrative support is no longer a critical success factor, but more of an obvious prerequisite for the rational operation of shared fleets. Telematics has also gone from being a purely administrative system, with reservation, logbook and recordings reported back, to now be strategic telematic platforms, with a wide range of applications. Driving behavior, alcohol interlocks, speed record, seat belt use, access, service, track & trace and damage reporting are just some of the functions that can be activated with the new platforms. In this area the operation needs to some extent coincides with the rental car business and many professional services.
ASSUMED FURTHER DEVELOPMENT
The rental car industry has for years remained at a safe distance from the “nonprofit colored” and a bit “suspicious” car share industry. Some attempts on their part went less well, but now several major players in the rental car industry have launched its own car share concept. Probably, they see opportunities to streamline their core business while broadening service offerings. With such appearances business might grow significantly. SunFleet Carsharing, owned by Hertz, are after many tough years now showing profit, which should interest the rental car industry.
The development of the car share telematic platforms will likely be coordinated with other developments in other parts of the car manufacturing industry. Most of the features offered by the mentioned telematic platforms will probably be standard features and which can be activated if wanted (and for a fee).
The trend towards greater accountability (e.g., CSR) and a higher degree of quality assurance (including transport) is likely to increase the interest of outsourcing car fleets. This is a development that SRA strongly applaud and support.
One of the main characteristics of CSOs is to free space. (Each shared car replaces an average of five private cars.) As the CSOs grow the need to support their growth and to manage their impact in the physical planning will increase. Part of the issue is to adjust the municipal parking standards down – a job that pays some attention. For some years, there is also a discussion about how to allocate parking spaces for shared cars. An interesting solution is the redistribution of street space into property space and to reserve it for car share vehicles. Car share organizations are inherently flexible and another challenge is to manage a changing need of parking spaces.
Cooperation between car share organizations and public transport is often portrayed, and rightly so, as a critical success factor for both parties. Since 2008, the regional public transport company Västtrafik and the two dominant CSOs in Gothenburg have a cooperation agreement. The agreement says that if you have a seasonal subscription card of Västtrafik you may join the CSO for three months without the monthly fee. The first two months these CSOs got a couple of hundred new customers.
The local and regional public transport companies in Stockholm and Skåne have so far shown a rather cautious interest in the issue, but we will certainly see more of this type of “free” collaboration in the future. Recently, similar collaborations started in Umeå. More integrated transport (public transport, car sharing, taxi, etc. on the same card) has been tested in many places and will perhaps also established in Sweden. In some places in Germany public transport provides a complete service, including car sharing.
* Address the ability to allocate parking in streets to shared cars. The last completed national parking study, although SRA reminders, did not propose this change in focus. The ability to act through local “space planning acts” should be examined.
* Address the differences in the rules for VAT deduction. For leased cars and taxis, customer may deduct all VAT, for hired cars and shared cars, however, only half the amount of VAT. To get the car rental industry into the car share business and to attract more car sharing procured in the public sector, the rules must be assimilated.
* Continue to propagate for car sharing as a key factor for flexible travel in cities. Inform municipalities, counties and companies about the benefits of organizing their transportation needs with car sharing and public transportation. Explain the system benefits of open car share organizations that serve a variety of partners in the city.
* There is a significant gap between the market potential, awareness and appreciation and use of car sharing. Probably, there is significant potential to capture through more active marketing, such as the site http://www.bilpool.nu.
* SRA should continue to conduct national monitoring (statistics) and analysis of the car sharing market. SRA should also continue to act as a national and international party and interface for car sharing
* Continue to gather knowledge about car sharing. The following ingredients are present for a publication:
• domestic market potential (completed January 2009)
• status in the world – a list and fuller description
• status in Sweden – list and fuller description
• VAT – rules of deduction and tax rates for car sharing
• public transport – new models, strategies
• extended functions – speed and fuel record, alcohol interlocks, etc.
• procurement requirements – optimized solutions
• key figures for enterprises and organizations
• review of administrative systems (from 2008)
• parking – utilities, standards, policies
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April 1, 2010 marks the start of a new governmental authority – The Swedish Transport Administration. The new administration is charged with the task of developing an effective and sustainable transport system including all modes of transport. In close dialogue with regions and municipalities, the new Transport Administration is responsible for the collective, long-term infrastructural planning for all modes of transport. The Transport Administration is also responsible for building and maintaining the national highways, roads, and railways. In addition, the Transport Administration is responsible for efficient use of the infrastructure and for promoting safe and environmentally adapted transports.
About the author:
Per Schillander: Master of science, 30 years of experiences in different tasks in environment and transport areas. Employed by the Swedish road administration since 1998, as a small part national expert on car sharing. All year cyclist (southern Sweden). Big lover of music, sailing, wildlife etc. A never resting improver of house, garden, mind and society.