Currently reading: Analysis: will car sharing replace vehicle ownership?
MPs and manufacturers believe car sharing will cut CO2 and its popularity is rising
4 mins read
20 September 2019

If car ownership levels stay as they are now, the UK isn’t going to fulfil its climate change promises. That was the conclusion reached by MPs from the Science and Technology Committee last week.

Even electric cars aren’t seen as a panacea to the problem, mainly because factories would pump out too much CO2 to replace cars at the rate we currently buy them. The committee’s recommendations were pretty scary for any car owner. “In the long term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation,” its report said.

However, not all motoring came under attack. Car-share schemes emerged from the report as the one long-term option that keeps a lid on CO2 output, mainly because they’re compatible with electric technology but also because, according to research from the BMW and Daimler Share Now service, a single shared car can replace about eight private cars.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told the committee that “a clear shift from traditional vehicle ownership to usership has emerged in recent years”, pointing out that car makers are already exploring car-share programmes.

Car-share schemes (or car clubs) are increasing in popularity in the UK. The number of cars in such schemes has gone from 3188 in 2015 to 5385 this year and membership has climbed from under 200,000 to just over 350,000, according to research from CoMoUK.

Of those cars, a whopping 60% are based in London, where the big players such as Avis Group’s Zipcar, Enterprise Car Club and BMW’s DriveNow operate. It makes sense. It’s more expensive and more hassle to own a car in a big city, where there are plenty of other transport options. Zipcar said it has 270,000 members in London, making it the USowned brand’s biggest market. Rates start at 29p per minute but various plans are available.

Manufacturers are also dipping a toe in the water. The two longest-standing operations – DriveNow from BMW and Car2Go from Daimler – are in the process of combining to create ShareNow. Volkswagen launched WeShare in June with an electric-only car fleet, starting in Berlin with 1500 e-Golfs. The PSA Group also offers car sharing under its Free2Move mobility brand, although in the UK it offers cars via business contract hire only.

The business of car sharing is hard work, though. BMW and Daimler are pooling resources partly because their global car-share operations weren’t consistently profitable.

The business is far more complicated than just selling cars because local conditions are so varied and the obstacles not immediately apparent. Despite coming to London in 2014, DriveNow even now operates in only nine of London’s 33 boroughs, mainly because it has to negotiate parking with each one. Daimler’s Car2Go quit London in 2014 and hasn’t returned. More recently, Zipcar left Brussels, citing the high rates of car ownership there.


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It’s also hard to imagine these schemes replacing car ownership outside of urban areas, where population density is so much less. But car makers are persisting. In the three years from the start of 2016 to the end of 2018, $48 billion (£39bn) worth of investments in the shared mobility sector, including ride-hailing firms such as Uber, have been tracked by analytics firm GlobalData.

“Consumers are becoming ever more comfortable with the concept of having access to a shared product without the financial burden of private ownership,” Mike Vousden, automotive analyst at GlobalData, said.

The pain now is worth the prize (much) later – that of autonomous ride hailing. Daimler’s and BMW’s company will combine ride hailing, car sharing, parking and EV charging in preparation for the day that self-driving technology will, they hope, pour billions into their coffers as we remotely whistle up autonomous cars.

Even before that, there are benefits outside of the rental income. More and more ride-hailing firms are operating electric cars and that’s great for dragging down company CO2 levels and reducing the chance of having to pay a fine under the EU’s 2020 CO2 emissions rules.

“I see the manufacturers’ car-sharing fleets as a highly calculated strategic move in helping them over the 2020/21 CO2 finish line. They have in effect created their own fleet sales channel,” said Berlin-based automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt. “Just turn the taps on when required.” He cites WeShare, which, VW has said, will also feature the new ID 3 when it arrives next year, as well as 200 Moia electric ride-hailing vans, which will be registered as cars.

To hope that the bulk of private car ownership could be replaced by shared cars outside of Britain’s cities is a pipe dream, but for urban dwellers, it’s fast becoming a useful addition to a widening range of transport options.

Nick Gibbs


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20 September 2019

Motoring journalists and the industry discussing the future of car ownership is pointless. Neither the music, book or camera industries saw what was coming and even when they did, didn't have the capacity to understand how to deal with the change.

The two fundamental rules in any change are cost and convenience. The car replaced the train and bus because although much more expensive it was a massively more convenient way to travel. The move away from ownership will take time in anycase, just as there will be people who never moved away from LPs there will be people who insist on buying petrol cars well into the second half of the century. The question is what is the change that will make car sharing more cost effective and convenient than a car that spends 90% of its life depreciating on the drive way.

20 September 2019

 Car sharing sounds a good idea until you factor in Humans, most don’t, won’t share for numerous reasons( I’m one before you start) plus there’s all the variables to consider, who turn is it this Week, or being on time, or getting to wherever whenever, what about emergencies?, there’s so many ifs and buts, and in the future if there less car ownership, where does the Government get its revenue to keep our Roads in tip top condition....

20 September 2019

And certainly not for the majority. Next question

20 September 2019

It's amazing how ill-informed the motor industry are about their consumers!

“Consumers are becoming ever more comfortable with the concept of having access to a shared product without the financial burden of private ownership,”

....sure, consumers in London who currently don't own a car are liking having the ability to have a car. This is entirely obvious!

What about the majority of car owners, most of whom don't live in a major metropolis?


The plan, it seems, is that car ownership 'must' become a luxury once again.

Judging by the yellow vest protests in France, that position is not just unpopular in the UK...


What governments need to realise is other sources of carbon exist. CFCs and HCFCs for example have about 1000 times the effect that CO2 does on climate change.

What aren't politicians looking at regulating them out of existance, and forcing change in the electronics industry. Because that would be hard? ....

Motorists / Cars in general are just an easy target.

20 September 2019

and Personal Mobility. Think of road infrastructure as networks and traffic throughput as bandwidth. Then platforms are what providers like Uber are working on. That leaves end-users. In internet, wifi, download services, etc. end-users are usually measured and charged in terms of demand, content, speed. In personal mobility, end-users are defined by the vehicle they’re using. Reduce EV footprint would lower demand on the electrical grid, have them qualify for a reduced tariff by their provider, would ensure better throughput, and lead to zero-emission car travel that does not require billions in EV tax credits. Governments and city councils can speed up development by tariffing passenger cars (vehicle tax, road pricing, congestion charges, parking fees), based on vehicle emission and size. 

THE problem with car makers and car journalists? They put the = sign between selling cars and providing personal mobility. PM is about so much more, goes beyond car ownership. The author got that right.


20 September 2019

If i car share will the car i want to drive be waiting on my drive? Will it be a convertible when i want it to be? Will it be an Estate car when i need one? Will it have my stuff in it, and not other peoples junk? Will it be clean, and full of fuel? Will i be able to put my dogs in it when i want, but not be full of other peoples dog hair when i need to go to a meeting, not covered in the stuff? Will it always be available exactly when i want it?

Answer yes to all of those, and the answer is still NO. 


20 September 2019

I can see how this could work for some who only have occasional need for a car and don't want the costs and hassle of ownership. But the shared car would have to be capable of driving itself to and from the user at short notice and be no more expensive than an existing taxi. And if such a scheme was big enough to have an impact on CO2 then manufactures would have to find ways of maintaining profitability from smaller production numbers. 

21 September 2019

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22 September 2019
.... It's called taking the bus, flagging a taxi, getting a Hertz rental car. So what is this "new" idea on car sharing? Perhaps four strangers who all want to go from same A-B at the same time club together for a car-share car at 29p per mile and split the cost. Taxi?!

Utter nonsense. I'm assuming the 29p per minute applies to when it's being driven, in which case that's £417 for 24 hours use; much more than buying a new car on PCP even if that included fuel, insurance, servicing and wear. In the city why would you bother instead of using public transport. Whatever the scheme entails, you'll need to show me that it's cheaper than buying/leasing my own car.

23 September 2019

"Even electric cars aren’t seen as a panacea to the problem, mainly because factories would pump out too much CO2 to replace cars at the rate we currently buy them."

But isn't the idea to decarbonise all energy generation? That would also include the energy supplied to car factories. Same goes for all the transportation involved in car production.

There is going to be a vast amount of manufacturing and distribution to make all the wind turbines, solar cells and batteries we will need and to keep replacing them when they wear out. Simply making less stuff isn't really an option, we have to decarbonise industries as well as the products of those industries.

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