Car Sharing – the Mobility of the Future?

Car sharing providers are looking to establish themselves in today’s new mobility mix. Numbers from the beginning of the year show that the market is growing steadily. One downer: the Corona pandemic has led to significant declines in the car sharing business.

Photo: Shutterstock - Macrovector

The demand for car sharing was huge – until Corona stopped the boom. Photo: Shutterstock – Macrovector

Whether Karlsruhe, Utrecht, or Montpellier: more and more cities are offering a comprehensive range of car sharing services. According to the German CarSharing Association (bcs), 45 new providers have established themselves on the market in 2019 alone. Since the beginning of 2020, 840 German cities and communities offer car sharing, 100 more than in the previous year. The number of registered car sharing customers almost reached 2.3 million. Of these, just under 1.6 million made use of the so-called “free floating” cars: this means cars are independent of stations and can be found where the last customer parked them. In contrast, 710,000 customers use the station-based car sharing system. While the latter type recorded an increase of 9.3 percent, the number of customers in free floating fell by 12.7 percent compared to the previous year. The reason: the two providers car2go (Daimler) and DriveNow (BMW) combined their fleets to form the new provider ShareNow. Customers who previously registered twice, now only appear once in the adjusted statistics. According to management consultancy Kearney, the number of all customers worldwide has grown rapidly: from 7 million users in 2015 to 27 million in 2018.

Car sharing providers further expand their range of vehicles

Free floating is particularly suitable for spontaneous trips, though the prerequisite are quickly available vehicles. According to bcs, providers want to make the vehicle offer more attractive by increasing it by almost 50 percent from 9,000 to 13,400 vehicles. The importance of this step is shown by a survey conducted by management consultancy Kearney. In order to find out how well car sharing is actually doing, more than 1,000 people in Germany, Great Britain, and the USA were surveyed, half of whom were car sharing customers. Lack of availability, non-existent privacy, such as storing personal belongings in the car, and the need for personal independence are the three biggest criticisms of car sharing. Customers want to have a vehicle available as quickly as possible and preferably always nearby. In the bcs city ranking, Karlsruhe best satisfies this need. Here, the average is 3.23 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Munich with 2.13 and Hamburg, where 1.61 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants are available. But smaller cities can also benefit from this trend, as station-based car sharing is also available in 445 towns and cities in Germany with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. For Kerstin Haarmann, Federal Chairwoman of the Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), there is no question that shared use of vehicles should become the mobility of the future: “In future, individual mobility will be digital – in the city and in the country. Car sharing positions itself in just the right place: in future, I’ll borrow exactly the car I need for single trips.” ShareNow, Germany’s largest service provider in the free floating sector, also expects car sharing to continue to play an important role in the modern mobility mix. In order for car sharing to become a successful model, the Kearney survey’s authors recommend better integration of services into public transport as well as the creation of incentives, such as free parking in the city.

Graphics: ETM

Graphics: ETM

Corona pandemic puts the breaks on car sharing

However, the mantra of the last weeks and months has been: stay home for your health. This has had noticeable consequences for the recently steadily growing car sharing market. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) interviewed 1,000 people about their use of transport in a recent study. According to this, 39 percent feel more uncomfortable or even significantly more uncomfortable with the use of car sharing services since the beginning of the crisis. This is also reflected in the providers’ figures. According to bcs, car sharing cars were booked 50 to 80 percent less than in the previous year. Car sharing service provider Cambio reported a decline of 40 to 80 percent in several cities. At teilAuto, which operates in 20 cities in Germany, the decline amounted to 80 percent, so the fleet was downsized in order to reduce fixed costs. On request, ShareNow reported a strong decline in March and April, especially in Spain and Italy, but also in all other markets. New approaches in the car sharing sector are in demand, especially as a result of the slump initiated by the Corona crisis.

Platform #weallmove helps with vehicle search in times of crisis

The local public transport sector is not exempt from this crisis, either. This form of mobility is currently the least popular. According to the DLR survey, 63 percent of Germans do not (or no longer) feel comfortable on buses and trains, which is why many are switching to their own cars. This is exactly where the new platform #weallmove, involving more than 65 mobility companies from Europe, the USA, and South America, comes into play. For all those who don’t have a car of their own, and also for companies that urgently need vehicles during the crisis, a central mediation platform is intended to provide relief. As can be seen on the website, #weallmove is part of the World Economic Forum’s global action plan for Covid-19, which is aimed primarily at caregivers, delivery services, and food retailer employees who haven’t had the option of staying at home in recent weeks. With innovative approaches that can be flexibly adapted to the circumstances, mobility solutions tailored to the situation and requirements can also be established in the future.

Graphic: ETM

Graphic: ETM

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