Monday, 6 June 2011

Drivers turn to electric car sharing

Car sharing is the 'gateway' of the growing trend to use web based applications to create community, or sharing based ventures.

A growing number of cities in America and Europe including the UK, Germany, Switzerland and France, and also in Australia, are slowly - and with signs of  increasing momentum - but surely turning away from the concept of car ownership. 

The alternative is car usage and there are a number of different business models coming to market.
Traditional B2C (Business to Consumer) car clubs buy or lease their cars from the major manufacturers and/or leasing companies and offer them to motorists for a membership fee plus payment by the day, hour and in some cases, by the minute. Hertz Connect (US and UK), Zipcar (US, now also in UK with the acquisition of StreetCar), Mobility in Switzerland, Veolia's Mobizen (France) and Sydney's Go Get are leaders in this space.
B2B (Business to Business) models also exist, often alongside B2C offers.
The newer P2P (Peer to Peer, also referred to as Neighbour to Neighbour, or Carsharing 2.0) collaboratively shared fleet model enables people who own cars to make money from them by making them available to members (membership is usually free). RelayRides, Getaround, Spride Share, WhipCar all operate in this space.
The current crop of car-sharing and car-rental companies are highly-focused on making technology and mobile devices part of the car-sharing decision. The ubiquity of mobile devices, combined with the ease of using most apps, is helping to transform the transportation experience. 

St James, the UK property developer, has struck a deal with an Avis club, CARvenience, to supply 19 cars, available at 15 minutes' notice to residents in its new development, One SE8, in Deptford, South East London. Prices start at £165,000, but only half of the 400 flats will have parking spaces, which cost an extra £10,000. Those without parking spaces get free membership of the club for the first year. After that, they pay £99 annually.

Paris this month commences Autolib, the Pay and Use electric car service that will eventually offer 4,000 electric cars at 1,000 park and charge sites across the city, similar to the Velib and to London's bike share schemes.
As each shared car replaces up to 20 or more owned cars, the model is a potential nightmare for the automakers. They cannot sit idly by however and a few are setting up their own ventures, including BMW/Sixt (Drive Now) and Daimler (Car2Go), who are less threatened than the mass market marques by this trend. Others, such as Peugeot (mu) and Volkswagen (Quicar) are establishing offers which provide access to a wider range of vehicles from their portfolio, whilst new intermediaries are entering the market to aggregate on-road vehicles with other forms of mobility such as mass transit.
With pioneers such as Norway's Move About leading the way with all-electric car share fleets, followed by Daimler's all-electric Amsterdam initiative, a future with fewer and cleaner cars looks like a quiet revolution in mobility.               
Frost & Sullivan predicted that 5.5 million Europeans will be part of a car sharing scheme in 2016, with every third vehicle added to the schemes from next year likely to be electric.
That will give Europe some 77,000 shared vehicles, suggested the report, one in five of them running on electricity rather than gas. Makes a lot of sense.