In October 2013, Stephanie Günther gave a presentation at homo ecos: about “collaborative consumption”. In this series of nine blogs, she explains what it is, and how it can help towards a more sustainable society. Chapter 2: Car sharing and carpooling.
Most private cars are only used for about one hour a day and only by one single person. This means that these cars are parked somewhere for about 23 hours and that their capacity is far from being used! This is not very efficient if you look at the investment for the acquisition and the costs for maintenance, insurance, fuel, parking, etc.
In the past decades have been developed in Europe and North America two ways of a better use of cars: car-sharing and car-pooling. Car-sharing stands for a system where several people use individually the same car (or several cars), and car-pooling is the organized use of one car for a certain trip.
In principle, car-sharing exists for a long time in terms of car-rental. The main difference is that car-sharing often started on a private, non-profit level, and not on a commercial level like car-rental. And that it is more flexible: car-sharing users can take a car for a few hours only (in general car-rental is for at least one day) and they have direct access to the cars, 24/24 and 7/7 (for car-rental you have to sign a contract and pass in the agency during office hours to fetch the car-keys). With modern technology and the change of business models for car-rental organisations and carmakers, it is interesting to see that these lines start to be blurred. And car-sharing has become a business, even if there still exist local, non-profit associations.
There are different kinds of car-sharing systems and different forms of organisations:
- Private (“neighbourhood”) car-sharing: several households share one car or several cars. These cars can already exist in the property of one or several car-owners, or the car(s) can be bought together for a common use.
The rights and duties of each member, the practical organisation of the car use and maintenance, the cost distribution of the acquaintance and the use of the cars are fixed in a contract. The user’s fees are based on the principle to cover all costs (including reinvesting costs in new vehicles), but no profit.Another form of this “private” car-sharing is the peer-to-peer car-sharing: one car owner makes his vehicle available for others to rent for a short period of time. This form of use is also covered by a contract. Peer-to-peer car-sharing can be organized on a local level or on a wider level. Meanwhile some organisations have even spread their offer on national level. So the limit between private and commercial car-sharing is floating.
- Commercial car-sharing can be established on a local, a regional or a national level and under different legal forms (club/association, limited liability company, incorporation, etc.). The commercial car-sharing organisations make vehicles available to their members, clients or shareholders who pay for the time they use the vehicles (hours) and for the distance covered (kilometres), the fuel being included. As the organizations often propose different types of cars (small, medium, large, minibuses, transporter), the fee depends also of the type of the car. The cars can be owned or leased by the organisations, who take care of the maintenance of the vehicles and conclude contracts with the users. The cars are accessible by a chip-card, the car-keys are in the car. The car booking is made by phone via a call-centre or by internet. An on-board computer registers the use (time and distance) and transfers the data to the accounting centre where the bill is established.When you want to start a small association, you can also use key boxes and log books and establish cooperation with the local taxi service for the booking procedure by phone.In a “station based” car-sharing system, the cars have a fixed parking place where they are picked up and dropped off by the users. In small associations operating in small municipalities, these parking places are usually near public transport stops (railway or bus stations) or on a central place. In bigger organisations, the cars are located on decentralized places close to the users.
Meanwhile also exist systems where the cars can be picked up and dropped off at any public place (“free floating” system).
In addition to these car-sharing offers that turn mainly to private use, some organisations have specialized on certain target groups: car-sharing for enterprises and municipalities or for public transport users. Offering car-sharing to public transport users might seem contradictious, but it is in fact beneficial for both, as they are complementary and not competing. Otherwise railway companies like DB (D) and SBB (CH) or public transport companies like Veolia Transdev (F) would certainly not have created car-sharing companies.
And many associations have created national or even international networks that permit their clients to use cars in different cities or countries, with one simple access to reservation and cars. Car-sharing has become a business segment that even interests car-rental companies like Sixt (drive now) and Hertz (Hertz on demand), carmakers like BMW (drive now) and Daimler (car2go), and also car park enterprises like Vinci Park (Ogiko).
- General information:
- Neighbourhood car-sharing (note: neighbourhood car-sharing groups do not have internet sites, as they are too small; so we can only provide information about a model contract in German, that you can eventually use for creating a neighbourhood car-sharing group in Latvia, by translating and adopting it to Latvian law):
- Peer to peer car-sharing:
- Station-based “classical” car-sharing (note: due to the plurality of offers, we limit information to some national sites of organizations and networks):
- Free floating car-sharing:
- Offers for certain target groups:
- France: http://www.carboxservices.com/ (for enterprises and municipalities)
- Switzerland and Germany: http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/car-bike/hire-or-borrow.html or http://www.flinkster.de/ (for public transport users and everyone else)
Like car-sharing, car-pooling exists for a long time: neighbours take together one car to go to work or for shopping, students take other persons in their car when they drive home for the week-end, even hitchhiking is a form of car-pooling. In the United States, the idea of car-pooling came up during World War II as a rationing tactic and had a comeback in the oil and energy crises of the 1970ties, when road authorities started to reserve “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lines for cars shared by several persons. In Germany, municipalities tried to fight against congestion in cities and the lack of parking place by establishing “P & M”-places (“parken und mitnehmen” = park and give a ride) on radial highways outside the cities, where people can meet to take one car to get to the centre.
With the cost increase of fuel and the upcoming of modern technologies like internet and smartphones, car-pooling has become more common and easier to organize. Software programs have been developed to bring together people who offer places in their cars and people who look for a ride.
In many countries, different offers exist, often encouraged by municipalities or regional administration who try to reduce car transport, or by enterprises who want to facilitate commuting for their employees by using one car. The main challenge for every offer remains to reach the critical mass that permits a maximum of matches: if the offer is limited to a small region or a certain destination, it might be difficult that offers meet demand (and vice versa), so that people risk to become discouraged.
Another challenge is to provide safe conditions for all users: therefore organized car-pooling via commercial providers is useful, as they request data from their users and verify it. Often car-pooling is also secured by national law, for example concerning insurance and risk protection.
Furthermore, there exist some more flexible and spontaneous forms of car-pooling:
- Casual car-pooling (also known as “slugging”) is the practice of forming ad hoc, informal car-pools for purposes of commuting, essentially a variation of ride-share commuting and hitchhiking. Typically slugging is motivated by an incentive such as a faster HOV lane or a toll reduction. This form of car-pooling exists primarily in some cities in the United States.
- Dynamic car-pooling (also known as instant ridesharing, dynamic ridesharing or ad-hoc ridesharing) is a service that arranges one-time shared rides on very short notice. This type of carpooling generally makes use of three recent technological advances: GPS navigation devices to determine a driver’s route and arrange the shared ride; smartphones for a traveller to request a ride from wherever he happens to be; social networks to establish trust and accountability between drivers and passengers.A particular form of dynamic car-pooling was tested in Switzerland: organized and secured hitchhiking, but without using smartphones. For more information, see www.carlos.ch/ (site also in English)
- General car-pooling (note: due to the plurality of offers, we limit information to some national sites, as most of the organisations work on an international level):
- Car-pooling for target groups (inhabitants of a certain region or municipality, students or employees):
- Switzerland: http://www.e-covoiturage.ch/ (site also in English)
- France: http://www.covoiturage.pro/ or http://www.easycovoiturage.com/ (provides also car-pooling for enterprises and in different regions)
- Germany: http://www.karzoo.eu/ (organized in different countries and provides also special offers for enterprises and universities; site also in English) or http://www.pendler-zentrale.de/ (especially for commuters)
- Dynamic car-pooling:
Author: Stephanie Günther