Innovation That Matters

Share the car, not the ride

Work & Lifestyle

Commercial car-sharing ventures: with only 100,000 citizens taking part in commercial car sharing, this potentially enormous market may be ready to take off in Europe and the US.

Judging from car-ownership data for North America, Europe and Australasia, you would expect everyone living in those areas to have a car by now, if not two. But in urban agglomerations all over the car-loving world, millions of people do NOT own a car, put off by congested, accident-prone infrastructure, sky high parking fees, vandalism, high maintenance costs, and other nuisances. On top of that, the average urban car sits parked 20 to 23 hours a day; many are idle from weekend to weekend. Which isn’t to say most city dwellers wouldn’t want to own a car now and then, and this is where Zipcar (Boston, New York, Washington DC and Denver) and a whole slew of new commercial car-sharing ventures comes in. How does it work? Zipcar manages a fleet of cars, at the disposal of its members any time for as brief as one hour. Members are both residents and businesses. A reservation for a specific car in a specific location can be made online or by phone. Cars have dedicated parking spaces and can usually be found a short walk from where members live. Members carry a personal Zipcard, and reservations are sent wirelessly to the cars so they will open only to the right person at the right car at the right time. Zipcar’s technology knows when members lock and unlock the doors and how many miles they have travelled — so no paperwork, either. Zipcar pays for gas, but members are responsible for refuelling when the car goes below a 1/4 tank using the supplied gas credit card which bills directly to Zipcar. Zipcar members pay for car use by the hour and by the mile. Fees include everything — gas, maintenance, insurance, and parking. Hourly rates are location and car-specific. A typical New York daily rate would be around 60 USD, including gas and some free miles. Businesses are also catered to: Zipcar reduces the need for private, business, or fleet vehicles at the workplace, and serves as an in-town car when employees travel to Boston, New York, or Washington, DC. Other corporate benefits include: – Efficient use of onsite parking. – Elimination of paperwork and administrative overhead. – Driving charges billed to specific accounts. – Hassle-free program (Zipcar handles customer service and maintenance). – Strong employee benefit. – Zipcar can place a vehicle on-site at a place of business, if a business can demonstrate sufficient demand.


Zipcar wasn’t the first venture to come up with car-sharing: similar services now exist in Western European nations, most noticeably in Amsterdam (Greenwheels), Berlin (Statt Auto), Switzerland (Mobility), Sweden and the UK. In Asia, experiments are up and running in Japan and Singapore. However, even in Europe total membership numbers don’t exceed 100,000. Furthermore, most cities only have one commercial provider as of yet. That means plenty of opportunity in semi-serviced or completely virgin markets made up of tens of millions of urban, car-less residents throughout the world. Not to mention the tens of millions of urban car owners who may one day make the switch to a more convenient, environmentally friendly form of car ownership!


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