14 December 2014

Mobility for a new generation

Car ownership has been an aspiration for generations of teenagers, but this is changing fast.  The next generation of drivers are less likely to own a car, and a lot more likely to access a car only when they need it.  And you can understand why:
  • Car's are not cheap to buy, insure or maintain
  • Cars depreciate in value quickly - and this will accelerate as new car technologies render older ones less attractive
  • Parking is not readily available for a lot of people
  • Congestion and pollution aren't being resolved in cities
For the car industry, this is a problem, as their traditional business model relies on selling volumes of cars to the public, or for fleets.  Car dealers too, will struggle to survive in their current form if cars aren't purchased as often.  Below are outlined some of the new business models being introduced, and the players who are vying to deliver a great experience and win customer loyalty.  It is interesting to note those manufacturers who have embraced these new business models.

Why is this relevant to sustainability?  Well, put simply, car sharing should mean less vehicles on the road.  That means less materials used in manufacture, less congestion, and less emissions.  In fact, a Frost & Sullivan study suggested that each car sharing vehicle available, it was equivalent to 15 privately-owned vehicles.

This blog will consider 5 different business models:
  • Car sharing
  • Peer-to-peer car sharing
  • Lift sharing
  • Car Lane Sharing
  • Taxi services
  • Parking space sharing

Car Sharing

People have been hiring cars for decades, but given the fixed costs of
rental agreement processing, cleaning and maintaining cars, it hasn't been suited to short-term rentals, so was only attractive to holiday-makers and businesses.  Local residents were stuck.  This is no longer the case...


Zipcar was setup in 2000, in Boston, US, merged with Flexcar in 2007, and in 2010, bought London-based Streetcar. In the UK, Zipcar offer a variety of VW/Audi cars/vans (plus Vauxhall Corsas) for hire, on an hourly or daily basis, in one of five cities (London, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, and Maidstone).

BMW DriveNow 

BMW i, Mini and Sixt have launched DriveNow in eight cities, including London.  In an all-inclusive package, once you have become a member, you can access a fleet of cars, and pay by the minute.  There's no need to return it to the same space it was collected from. 

Here's a promotional video:

Peugeot Mu
Peugeot haven't caught the imagination of the car sharing / sustainability media as much as they perhaps deserve.  Peugeot Mu started on the Continent, and was launched in the UK in 2010.  Its service offers a selection of mobility options for short-term rental, including cars, vans, mopeds and vans.

It seems to only operate from five Peugeot dealers in the UK (in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow), so its limited reach may restrict its wider acceptance.

Audi Unite

Audi Unite takes car sharing to a whole new proposition, by making car ownership between a group of people a lot easier.  A smartphone app allows you to locate the vehicle, reserve it, and see how much fuel is available.  And cleverly, the all inclusive running costs are then shared between the members of the circle, based on their respective usage. It's currently only available in Stockholm, so will be interesting to see if it gains further traction.


Car2Go (part of the Daimler AG group) operates in 30 cities across Europe and the US (but no longer in the UK).

 If you'd like to learn more, here's a video explaining the service:

City Car Club

City Car Club was launched in 2005 from Leeds, and offers cars for sharing in 17 locations in the UK.

Peer-to-peer car sharing

Taking the concept of car sharing to the next level, peer-to-peer sharing allows car owners to make their car available to other people, through peer-to-peer sharing.  Of all the collaborative consumption business models that exist, it may prove one of the most difficult, as trusting someone else with ones car is a tough call. One of the early pioneers, WhipCar, unfortunately is no longer in business, but there is at least one organisation still operating this model.

easyCar club

easyCar Club offers peer-to-peer lending, with driver vetting, insurance and RAC roadside assistance all providing peace of mind.

Lift sharing

Another twist to car sharing is offering spare seats to give the driver company for a trip they were already planning.


Lyft operate in a large number of cities in the US, with passenger ratings, payments via an app, and additional insurance services.

bla bla Car

Paris-headquarterd bla bla car offer peer-to-peer services in a handful of European countries, including the UK.  

Car Pooling

Munich-based Car Pooling is Europe's largest carpooling community.

Car Lane sharing

Car Lane sharing, or 'High occupancy vehicle' (HOV) sharing gives drivers access to an exclusive lane on a highway, if they share with at least one other participant. The idea is that this not only reduces their journey time, but with less overall cars on the road, it should have a net total benefit.  The reality can be somewhat different, with the non-HOV lanes finding an increase in congestion, and sometimes the HOV lanes very sparsely used.  This is a shame, as it's a great concept which perhaps needs to be more dynamically controlled.

Taxi services


Uber is a smartphone app which had an impact in every city it's entered, for example the traditional black cab drivers in London staging a protest.  Via a smartphone app, you can book a car with driver to collect you and drive you to your chosen destination.  The passenger can choose the level of car they'd like (e.g. luxury), and the payment is all made via the app.

Parking Space Sharing

JustPark (referral link) allows you to earn money from renting out a parking space you have (e.g. your driveway), to someone that would like to park there (by hour, day, week, month, etc.).  It's so simple, that even I use the service to rent out a space. 


If a journey can't be made by foot or cycle, ideally public transport should be used to minimise the environmental impact of the journey.  Where this isn't practical, there's no longer a need to own a car - there are a whole host of options available, helping people get to their destination.

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