Interview – Statkraft and the Future of Renewable Energy
Richard Mardon, Head of UK Development at Statkraft, Mer’s parent...
In recent years, sharing has become a thing: We share our lives and thoughts on social media. We share food to save it from going to waste. We share workplaces in co-working spaces. We share cars. But
Covid 19 introduced many complications when it came to ‘sharing’. As a result, many industries built around it were adversely impacted. One such sector was car sharing. Usage of these car clubs during lockdowns was naturally very low. For example, a German study by the Mobility Institute from April 2020 (source) – when lockdown really took hold – showed that car-sharing trips plummeted to around 56% of pre-crisis levels in Berlin and to 62% in Hamburg.
Additionally, providers were faced with a new set of complications around social distancing and cleanliness – with the need to introduce a range of new measures ensuring vehicles are more regularly cleaned with professional materials.
Unexpectedly though, the car-sharing industry has since bounced back strongly in many places. In fact, the Mobility Institute study went on to find that in July 2020 once Germany’s lockdown ended there were 45% more car-sharing trips than in April 2020. A fast revival. And in the Hamburg Home Area, by mid-June, the total amount of SHARE NOW trip minutes returned to around 90% of pre-crisis levels.
Car sharing, it would seem, is being seen by many as a great way for those without their own car to avoid the new risks of public transport.
Car sharing in general can be said to positively impact the environment as it’s reducing the need for extra vehicles on the roads.
And taking it a step further, we are finally starting to see clubs using electric vehicles (EVs). EV car clubs are enabling members of the public to rent out electric vehicles at short notice, low cost, and with no ties. Car club cars are usually available to pick-up from local public spaces, rather than hubs – adding to the convenience factor.
A few examples of successful projects include:
Germany has the largest number of shared cars on its roads. And in the economic region of Bruchsal, ‘Zeozweifrei unterwegs’ – an integrated car sharing, and electric mobility (e-mobility) system is now gaining traction. The service has 40 electric vehicles available across 13 cities and communities, along with 40 rapid charging stations, with 2,000 active users so far who have travelled nearly 1 million km between them – resulting in savings of 12,064 kg of CO2 per 100,000 km driven – a total of nearly 102,500 kg CO2 saved.
Thanks to the EU-funded public-private partnership project, every city and municipality in the area now has at least one publicly available charging station and one publicly-useable EV. Each project partner received an EV that can be used by the owner and the public via the car sharing scheme – a great example of a scheme where private EV drivers are able to rent their vehicle out to the public.
The Derwent Valley Car Club, is the UK’s first solely EV car club, set up 8 years ago by the Blackhall Mill Community Association to provide a more sustainable transport solution for the community in the North East of England. The pay-as-you-go club offers low hourly rates (from £4 p/h), no mileage fees, full insurance and can be used by anyone in the local area. The community-based scheme also reduces social isolation by providing a volunteer driver scheme for members of the community who are unable to drive themselves, providing access to essential services and social activities. The Car Club have been successful in developing a sustainable and economically viable rural car club. They are expanding into the wider area and have supported similar schemes to be created in other parts of the UK.
Lancaster City Council have teamed up with national car share scheme Co-Wheels to launch an electric car share club. In an effort to become net zero carbon by 2030 the council had already been making EVs available to staff for short trips around the district. The council are now providing their fleet of electric cars for public members to rent in Lancaster city centre and Morecambe town centre from £5.50 an hour (incl. cost of insurance, cleaning, servicing and refuelling). Members can search for nearby vehicles via the CoWheels app in Lancaster and other locations across the UK.
Each car is also equipped with a charge card and charging guides to enable users to truly give electric driving a test drive. And to reassure drivers as the pandemic continues, each vehicle is professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
Brighton now has the biggest hotspot of electric vehicle charging points in the South of England – with 348 charge points. And Electric Brighton are currently gathering community support for a proposed electric car club, in partnership with Co Cars. The vision would be to have clusters of vehicles booked for as little as 30 mins in local neighbourhoods across the city. As well as providing affordable EV access for everyone, the project would tackle Brighton’s congestion, parking and pollution problems.
Several existing London car clubs are now offering electric vehicles to members. For example, Ubeeqo enables employers to use their EVs in replacement of standard fleet vehicles for their employees – from £5 per month for 5 employees, including insurance. And the UKs biggest car club Zip Car now has 325 EVs available for London users.
Perhaps the clearest advantage of eCar sharing, standing to benefit us all, is its environmental impact – reduced air pollution and congestion. Car clubs have already been shown to reduce dependence on cars, with on average, each car club car removing between 10-15 privately owned cars from the roads. It’s also been estimated that there’s the potential for deployment of up to 34,000 car club cars across England and Wales, 14,000 of which could be deployed in Greater London, and could remove up to 300,000 cars from the road.
Studies have shown that car-sharing cars are used up to six times more often than private cars, and therefore spend more time on the road and less time clogging up the streets. Taking Berlin as an example, this accounts for more than 12,000 square metres of parking area being freed up.
Car clubs have been shown to increase levels of walking, cycling and public transport usage, as people are able to get a clearer view of the financial and environmental cost of driving.
Today’s generation expects connectivity and convenience within all areas of their lives and studies show they are choosing from an ever-increasing range of transportation types for getting around their cities.
eCar sharing offers the convenience of vehicle access, without the excess admin required with ownership. Registered members are able to manage the whole process around their personal lifestyle via smartphone – search for vehicles in their area, order it when they want, and drop it off when they want. It offers complete flexibility – and the ability to be spontaneous with your travel plans. The service is particularly useful for those without off-street parking, something the majority of EV drivers use for overnight charging – as the cars are handed over to you pre-charged.
eCar sharing members can make significant savings versus ownership when it comes to fuel, taxes and insurance. In Europe, the average car owner spends more than 1,000 € a year on fuelling their car, and once other costs such as insurance are added, you’re looking at around a 2,000 € annual spend (source). With eCar sharing there are generally no annual or monthly fees to worry about and all taxes and insurance costs are included. Billing is often calculated by model, and on a pay-per-minute of driving basis. Additionally, there’s no need to worry about MOTs, tire changes and parking fees – that’s all taken care of.
Top EV models such as BMWs, Fiats, Mercedes-Benz, MINI and even soft tops are available to drive via some eCar sharing systems – models that are typically very expensive to rent via standard rental providers.
By 2030 the UK intends to ban the sale of fossil fuel powered cars. However, many drivers still have concerns around making the switch to electric – electric car sharing schemes are a great way to ease yourself into EV ownership.
Many of the electric car schemes popping up allow any EV driver to rent their car out via the scheme – and earn some money off their vehicle when they aren’t using it themselves.
A recent report ‘The future of transport outside cities’ based on a series of roundtables held by the University of Hertfordshire Smart Mobility Unit, highlights the need for more car sharing options outside of major cities.
Smart Transport chair Professor Stephen Joseph points out that cities dominate research and policy discussions about transport, even though ‘Shire’ counties are responsible for 74% of the UK’s transport emissions. Given the layouts of ‘shire’ towns and the fact that many bus services have now been cut – there’s little option for residents aside from private car use. And as a result, there are large numbers of single-occupancy car journeys and subsequently high transport carbon emissions per head.
Of course, if EV car clubs are to really take off, the charging infrastructure will need to be there to support it.
Mer is on a mission to increase the likelihood of chargers being built where the EV drivers actually want them and increase the availability of charging stations at a faster pace. As a result, we’ve recently funded a project focused on Scaling On Street Charging Infrastructure (SOSCI). The initiative runs until January 2022 and explores ways to incentivise residential charging, by building a public electric charge point network across challenging urban and rural areas of County Durham. So far, we’ve facilitated the installation of 100 new public charge points across the County (200 sockets in total).
The SOSCI Consortium is made up of a range of partners, including Durham County Council, Charge My Street and the Derwent Valley EV Car Club. As SOSCI consortium partners, Mer are supporting the installation of fast chargers at 3 sites for the car club.
SOSCI sites range from public car parks which are used by residents to park overnight, to community centres, leisure centres and on-street areas. The aim of which is to allow residents without off-street parking to be within 5 minutes’ walk of a local charge point.
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