By Nicole Graham, Humanitas Global
Car-sharing has surged in popularity within the past decade as an affordable and convenient method of renting a vehicle for a short period of time. Contrary to previous methods employed by companies such as Hertz, Enterprise and Avis, car-sharing tends to cater to those who are living in cities and wish to use a vehicle intermittently for errands, quick trips, or weekend activities.
In an age when Uber and Lyft are now verbs rather than just company names, car-sharing seems like a logical jump. Users are in control of the car instead of at the mercy of another’s driving talents (or lack thereof). Some car-sharing companies require a small membership fee while others require the user to pay only for the amount of time the car is in use. After finishing with the car, there are many convenient pick-up and drop-off locations located around cities, instead of the driver returning the car to one designed location.
While the cars are convenient and low-cost for individuals, the car-sharing companies focus marketing on the environmentally-friendly nature of this means of transportation.. In Paris in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the COP21 agreement, a legally binding agreement to keep the world on track to reduce global warming and protect the planet. A key element of the COP21 agreement was the significant reduction of emissions by the time the Agreement was enacted in 2020.
Last month, UC Berkeley released the first ever North American impact study examining the impact car-sharing companies have on achieving reduced emissions targets. The university’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) conducted an analysis of the effectiveness of car-sharing companies, using car2go, currently the largest car-sharing provider, as their case study.
Researchers examined the proliferation of car2go with 9,500 car2go members in five different cities, Calgary, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, and Washington, DC, and came up with the following findings:
- Between two to five percent of car2go users sold their vehicles due to car2go availability throughout the cities;
- Seven to ten percent of the study’s respondents did not acquire a vehicle opting to instead utilize car2go;
- Each individual car2go removes the equivalent of seven to eleven vehicles from city roads;
- One to three private vehicles were sold for every one car2go available within a given city;
- There was a 4 to 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the cities included within the population study;
- Estimates suggest car2go prevented 10 to 29 million vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per year per city.
In total, it is estimated that car2go has removed more than 28,000 cars from the road.. Greenhouse gas emissions were significantly reduced, with 5.5 to 12.7 metric tons of GHG emissions reduced per car2go annually.
The United Nations estimates that 54 percent of the world’s population currently resides in cities, with projections of this number to increase by another 2.5 billion people by 2050. With such a surge projected for urban areas and in light of this report, car-sharing should be utilized and expected to grow as a proven way to navigate the city in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way.
Currently car2go operates in 30 different countries in North America, Europe, and China. But car-sharing is not limited to these areas. Locomute cofounders Ntando Kubheka and Tumisang Marope have pioneered Africa’s first car-sharing solution. The result of a project at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Business School, Kubheka and Marope created access to short-term rental cars through a mobile phone app. Users can reserve a car in advance, locate where to pick up and drop off the car, and lock or unlock the vehicle through the app.
Locomute is currently available in three South African cities, with hopes to expand significantly by the end of 2016. The service is the first of its kind in South Africa, catering to the country’s recent economic struggles and the people’s desire to cut living costs while still accessing different parts of the country. The company recently won the Business-Green Economy Initiative award from South Africa’s National Cleaner Production Centre. With projections showing high rates of urbanization in low- and middle-income countries, it is imperative that car-sharing and other environmentally conscious-driven practices are introduced now to pave the way for sustainable cities and populations. These same practices can also help alleviate emissions in developed countries.