Monday, June 30, 2014

Where Does Carsharing Fit in the Scheme of Transportation Modes?

When I was first getting interested in carsharing, way back in 1996, I came across a wonderful graphic that really helped me understand the role of carsharing in transportation.  You've probably seen this graphic in numerous Powerpoints — which modes are best for which types of trips, based on the Distance of the trip and amount of Flexibility (time, destinations) needed during the trip.

I first saw the graphic on Eric Britton's foundational website and e-mail discussion group at World Carshare Consortium, which is still alive and well (as is Eric, who has created more website and discussion groups since then than I can keep track of!)  He told me that the original source, from 20 years earlier, didn't actually call it carsharing but the term "paratransit"(after all the term wasn't coined until 1987 when carsharing as we know it got started, almost simultaneously in Switzerland and Germany).  Somewhere along the line, the word Carsharing got substituted and the chart became history.

 (From Ron Kirby and Kisten Bhat: Para-transit: Neglected options for urban mobility, Urban Institute, 1974)

Well, that graphic was history, until now. But even carsharing evolves and now we have a new flavor - one-way/on-demand carsharing (e.g. Autolib, Car2Go, Enjoy, JoeCar), which has somewhat different trip characteristics.  So I was very pleased to find an updated version of this chart from Marco Viviani of CommunAuto, Montreal, showing the place for One-Way.

Something that Viviani's graphic does very nicely is to convey what those swirly black line arcs in the upper graphics represent - the possible overlap between modes.

One might argue that the One-Way bubble should really be a big elipse that also slightly overlaps with Public Transit, since the most recent evaluations show a slight decrease in transit trips by one-way users.  (But, for what it's worth, I would suggest this should not be a big concern since these are likely trips that would have been difficult to do on transit - either because of time and schedules or because of the number of changes required.)

I suppose one could include Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in the Taxi category, if you really wanted to update it.  The next question will be where autonomous cars belong on the chart?

Hope this is useful.







Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two nice carsharing promotional videos - from South America

I'm always on the lookout for short, nicely done videos that promote carsharing and tell how it works.  Interestingly, the two most recent one's I've seem come across are from the South America, a huge area with lots of big cities (and a couple of megacities) and a whole lots of cars and traffic jams but, so far, very little carsharing.

The first video is from Joycar in Sao Paulo, a new carshare service placing cars in garages and at companies (joining long-established Zazcar).



The second is in one of my favorite animation styles - the hand drawn cartoon (as popularized by The Story of Stuff).  Who it's from is a bit of mystery (to me, at least).  @mobigo.cl is the only identification (tips welcome - just post a comment below.  Thanks).



If you've got some favorites, animated or not, let me know.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Six Key Decisions For Every Carshare Start Up

As a consultant in the field, I've talked to many entrepreneurs thinking about starting a carsharing company.  Almost always their first question is about technology — the telematic device in the car and the software for reservation/billing/fleet and customer management.  The next question is often about what I think about their choice of vehicles.

While technology and vehicles are important considerations, they are almost never the first things to consider and probably not the most important, make or break, decisions you'll face.  Preparing and delivering the recent webinars in Metavera's Should You Become a Carsharing Operator series got me thinking about what these priorities are.  So I'd like to offer an overview.

First a couple of general comments: many carsharing services have been experiencing 30%+ membership growth rates for a number of years.  The demographic trends indicate that car ownership has peaked in North America and Europe, so I expect these growth rates will likely continue.  Half of the 50 largest cities in the US do not have large-scale carsharing.  And, outside of Europe, Australia and Singapore, the rest of the world is untouched.  (But it may look different in these areas, since carsharing can provide "automobility" for the large segment of the population that may not be able to afford, and probably doesn't need to own, a car.

There's a variety of service models that get called carsharing: traditional (round-trip) services, and variants serving specialized markets, such as college campuses, government and corporate fleet carsharing, and getting closer to car rental model, there's unattended car rental (with carsharing elecronics but regular car rental rates and requirements) and variations on all of above. And, of course, there's one-way/round trip services, which are getting all the attention these days.

No matter what type of service you have in mind, there are some key considerations.  Here's my short list:

Insurance 

If you're not going to operate in North America or Europe, or if you have in mind a P2P carshare service anywhere, identifying insurance should be your very first order of business.   Carsharing insurance is more like a commercial auto policy, such as a corporate fleet or commuter van company might carry, not a personal auto policy.  And it probably isn't car rental insurance either - which is typically minimum coverage (in hopes of selling the customer additional coverage).  This means you have to dig deep to find insurance brokers that specialize in transportation.

And you will quickly find that insurance companies are in the business to make money.  They want to see that your company is going to grow sufficiently that the premiums you pay are worth their risk.  Don't waste your time, and that of insurance brokers, until you have developed a pretty well-defined concept with at least some basic financial projections.  Finding insurance is a slow process.  I can help speed it up.

Pricing

While there are a couple basic pricing strategies that many companies use, this is one of the key factors that prospective customers will judge your service on.  While hourly with miles included is the norm for most of North America, it seriously limits the types of trips your service can be effectively provide.

Developing a good pricing model is more difficult than it seems, since people don't have much to compare carsharing rates to.  Ask yourself: is my pricing simple and understandable for the first-time user?  Does it provide a discount for more frequent users, both individuals and businesses?  The area of pricing, including membership plans and other fees, is a major topic that I spend time helping customers define and refine.  

Customer Service

Perhaps the aspect of carsharing that gets the least attention from start ups is fully developing a  customer support side of the business.  When you own a car, you provide your own customer service.  When you're a carsharing company, how you relate to the customer during the crisis times is where your reputation is defined.  And customers will let the world know when you screw up - via Twitter, Instagram, email to friends - but not necessarily back to you.  This cannot be overstated.  It's not necessarily about money, it's your companys attitude, as well.

Competition

Carsharing is still a new concept for most people.  Two competitors in the marketplace actually legitimize something that many people may have thought was marginal.  So your biggest competitor in your customer's mind is car ownership - not another carsharing company.

You have to address these concerns that your prospective customers have:

  • Will your service be reliable (a car available when I want it)? 
  • Will it be convenient (easy to make reservations or on-demand; ideally no more than 5 minute walk to the car?)  
  • Will it be economical (less expensive than owning a car, including parking)? 

Brand

What is the personality you want your proposed company to convey?  This is so essential it's often overlooked when working through all the financial and operational details of starting a new company.  What kind image is your service going to have: functional, fun, youth-oriented, luxury, cool, reliable, a cooperative/"sharing economy" business, a "local company" or a corporate brand?  As a good example, I point you to Autoshare — they have done an amazing job with their Keys to Wonderful campaign, moving beyond the functional "how does it work" and creating a lifestyle brand.   Beyond a great image, conveying that brand throughout everything you do is a challenge.

Business Plan

In addition to these questions, your business or operating plan needs to show how the day to day operations will be handled: Where will the cars be parked?  Are the assumptions in your pro forma financial projections realistic/reasonable? How many staff people do you need? Do you have a viable marketing strategy?    Are the vehicles leased or owned?  How often do you clean the cars?  Who's handling on-call duties on evenings and weekends?  And, of course, there are the telematics and carshare software platform decisions that may have been your first consideration.  I will offer this hint: rarely does it make sense to start out building your own system - you don't know how all the pieces of your business fit together yet, so how can you design a system to manage it?

Carsharing is a low-margin business so you really need to hit come out of the gate running - whether you're a car rental firm planning a carshare subsidiary, a non-profit in a small community, or a large corporate venture.  As a consultant,  I know I can help you avoid wasting a lot of time and money getting your business off the ground  — you know your local market, I know the industry.  

I am flexible in the way I work with clients — by the hour or day, or by the project.  The most basic way I work with start ups is by reviewing the business plan and offering comments and suggestions.  In addition, using the resources of Team Red I can also provide demographic and geographic analysis to help identify the most promising neighborhoods, conduct survey, etc.

Here's a link to the slides from Should You Become a Carsharing Operator webinar presented by myself and Julian Espiritu of Abrams Carsharing Consulting and sponsored by Metavera.  If you'd like to contact me use the link at the top right of this page.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Does it really cost $9,000 per year to own a car in the US?


I saw it again: another article quoting a statistic of how much it costs to own a car!  You know, the one quoting AAA's calculations that it costs $9,000 per year. 

I am so tired of seeing that statistic!  Not that's it wrong, mind you, but because I don't think quoting it (without some context) actually makes people more aware of the cost of car ownership. Let me explain why.

First of all, if you own a car, you're probably NOT spending $9,000 per year, and I think the chances are slim that you even know someone spending that much each year (unless they own a very fancy car and live in a big city with very expensive rented parking space).  

It's not that the $9,000 number isn't true - I think the AAA did their homework, since it matches up very closely with Intellichoice cost of ownership numbers.  But as the AAA chart (PDF) shows, it's only true for very high mileage drivers in new, medium size cars - and, I would argue, these people aren't the people likely to join and use carsharing.  

I think the number that is more realistic to quote is the AAA number for a small sedan at a lower annual mileage of 10,000 miles per year - about $5,900 per year.  And these are big numbers:
  • $12 per day
  • 60¢ per mile (10,000 miles/year)
  • 46¢ per mile (over 15,000 mi/yr)
So my second objection to the $9,000 per year price tag is that it probably doesn't apply to a big percentage of the prospective customers for round-trip, station-based carsharing.*  Remember these AAA numbers are for new cars and would apply to vehicles less than 5 years old.  But most of the cars on the road today aren't new and especially those owned by prospective carsharing members.  The average age of cars on the road is almost 11 years -  34% of all cars are between 6 and 10 years old and another 36% are older than 10 years.   I would suggest that probably 40-50% of the vehicles on the road would be considered fully amortized (no depreciation or finance charges in the AAA chart) - these owners are probably looking at operating costs in the 25¢ per mile range.

It well known that most people who own a car don't have a very clear ide of what their car is costing them.  So, they don't have a good reference point to compare carsharing rates to ownership.  The closest comparison might be cost of car rental, so carsharing may seem expensive, since most rental rates have a lot of hidden costs - fuel, insurance, inconvenience of renting, etc.  And, unless they are familiar with bicycling/walking/transit use, it can be difficult to imagine accomplishing much of one's life without a car parked out front.

Don't get me wrong, part of any marketing campaign for carsharing needs to include the cost of ownership comparison.   But people make their decision to join carsharing based on many factors, one of which is cost comparison, but for most people the fundamental decision is a "value" question - "carsharing is convenient and less hassle and I get to drive to drive a variety of cool cars."

So, let's get out there and tell the world how expensive car ownership is - but give them a believable number in a context they can relate to.

*  Although, the $9,000/year number might apply to a greater percentage of prospects for one-way/on-demand carsharing, they are probably interested in one-way service for the convenience aspects not the money-savings.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is Car2Go Black the next chapter of carsharing?

From about day 2 after the initial launch in of Car2Go in Ulm, Germany people have been wondering if/when/whether Daimler would ever to include one of their larger vehicles in the car2go fleet?  Well, now they have — Car2Go Black — launching any day now in Berlin and Hamburg with 100 Mercedes B-Class vehicles in each city.


(Note to Daimler PR: the Men In Black juxtaposition is supposed to be humorous.)

And it appears they're doing it with the same flair and originality that marked the first Car2Go.  They could have easily and simply seeded a city fleet with 20-30 B-class sedans and let them float around the city and called it good, but they didn't.

Instead, it appears they've given a lot of thought about how to provide a flexible, convenient service.  They decided to place these "black" vehicles in several strategic locations around a city and let the customers come to them (I'm sure they're hoping it will be in a Car2Go Smart).


Sounds kind of like car rental, doesn't it?  But with a twist — they're only available on-demand — you can't reserve the Black cars, only hold them for 30 minutes, just like Smart car2go, so you have time to get to the location.

The vehicles can be returned to any of the Black parking garages/locations, including the originating location.  This includes one-way trips between Car2go Black cities.

And Car2Go Black pricing is a model of simplicity and very interesting positioning — 9.90 € per hour including 50 kilometers with additional distance at 0.29 € per km.  Locating, unlocking and billing will be through the existing Car2Go system.

Commentary

Daimler has come with a very clever compliment to its original Smart Car2Go system.  And should be pretty efficient to operate, as well.

They may not know it, but Car2Go has pretty much implemented mobility guru Dan Sturges' ideas of "near cars" (Car2Go Smart) and "far cars" (Car2Go Black) as a complete urban automobility solution.

And Car2Go Black already has a ready pool of thousands of existing customers signed up and in their system - credit cards and all!  From an OEM's point of view Car2Go Black could be to be a great way for Car2Go customers to try out the "move up" B-Class model, just in case they're is in the market for a new car! (I don't know about whether this was done in Europe, but Car2Go in the USA did a member promotion offering a discount on the purchase of a new Smart car a couple months ago.)

As with all flavors of carsharing: Customer Convenience = Car Utilization.  And how convenient this station-based carsharing will be depends at least somewhat on how convenient the parking / garage locations turn out to be. 100 vehicles is about the size of a small rental car location (at least in the US) and in this case, it seems likely there will be several locations of 20-30 cars — probably a decent sized for a rental location that only had premium vehicles (and only 1 model, at the present), particularly if you don't have a lot of staff involved.

The interesting challenge for Car2Go Black will be the on-demand-only aspect of the service.  The limited number of garages/locations is going to make their job of staging the Black cars easier for Car2Go, and should allow them to provide good vehicle availability, since they only have to keep vehicles at a limited number of locations, not hundreds of two and three vehicle pods, as in traditional carsharing.  Still, whether will be able to meet demand on the first major spring holiday weekend will be the test.

Pricing for Car2Go Black is less than the hourly cost of the Smarts in Car2Go (and it needs to be if they expect very many people to take longer trips in them).  But 9.90 € per hour is quite a bit more expensive than what other carshares charge for their most luxurious vehicles (not Mercedes, admittedly) and is very close to DriveNow's hourly rate for Mini Coopers and BMW 1-series.

So, around town, Car2Go Black will be a premium car rental.  And that trip from Berlin to Hamburg would be about 120 € in a Car2Go Black (assuming the Autobahn cooperated), which is about what a high speed train trip for 1 person without a discount card would cost (in fairness, the train makes the trip about 50% faster).  However, Avis would be glad to rent you a B-class for around town use in Berlin or Hamburg for a similar or lower price, but which wouldn't include fuel or insurance (and would be a lot more if you wanted one-way trip between cities).

How often the one-way between cities option will get used is anyone's guess. And it's worth nothing that the one-way between cities is not original with Car2Go — a similar one-way option to travel between cities is already offered by DriveNow between Köln and Dusseldorf.

As a reminder about the bigger picture, Car2Go isn't the only trick up Daimler Innovation's sleeve.  They have made substantial moves into the ridesharing market as well.  In addition to their investment in Carsharing.com, they have  invested in the trip planner app Moovel.  Integrated mobility coming soon to a smartphone near you!

I know I'm not going to be the only person who will be watching the roll-out of Car2Go Black closely.  Best of luck, meine Damen und Herren.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Where to go for more information about carsharing

I'm regularly asked what are some other sources of information about the rapidly diversifying carsharing industry, so here are a couple of comments and a couple of places to spend some time.

First, the comments: if you're looking for operational data - hours per day of utilization, revenues, etc. - I'll tell you right now, there's ALMOST NOTHING on the web.  The reason is not hard to figure out: most of the companies are for-profit and don't want their competitors doing exactly what you're trying to do - reverse engineer their business model.  Nothing surprising about that, is there?  You can try to do a little reverse engineering from Zipcar's old SEC filings (pre/post IPO), City Carshare's tax forms (they're a nonprofit) on GuideStar, and the financial statements in Mobility Switzerland's annual report (they're a cooperative).

What is on the web has a lot to do with the growth of the industry and the demographics of members and trip patterns, as it relates to impacts on urban transportation.  Almost all of the information out there is about traditional round trip, station-based carsharing, since the first studies of one-way/on-demand carsharing and P2P carsharing are only now underway with results expected to start trickling out in the fall of 2014.

Finally, I would warn you you can spend a huge amount of time on the internet looking for information that just doesn't exist.  Trust me!

The starting point for any research on carsharing is the 2005 study by Adam Millard-Ball Carsharing Where and How It Succeeds.  This is the bible on round-trip station-based carsharing.  Fortunately, you can download the entire book for free from the Transportation Research Board here.  Really, start with this report whether you're a car rental company, a city government agency or a business major writing a report or a business plan.

TSRC — At the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at U.C. Berkeley, Dr. Susan Shaheen has been researching carsharing longer than anyone, and we are fortunate that she's got an academic home that has enabled her to research and publish so much about the evolution carsharing.  Reports by her, Eliot Martin and Adam Cohen are cited everywhere and for good reason.

Some other sources to check out:

Auto Rental News magazine — Chris Brown the editor of Auto Rental News realized early on the implications of carsharing on the rental car industry and started covering it.

CSA — The Car Sharing Association is a North American-based trade and advocacy group with a growing world-wide membership, which primarily serves as a forum for operators.  Some of the most useful current information is from the presentations from their 2013 conference here.

My Twitter feed — You'll quickly see that I Tweet a lot more than I write blog posts.  I cover current developments in carsharing and "new mobility", in general.  My most recent Tweets are to the right.

Carsharing.Net — Carsharing.net is curated by Autoshare (Toronto) CEO and Canadian carsharing pioneer Kevin McLaughlin and has a bunch of information, some new, some old including some "how to's" about starting a carshare from some of the pioneers. You can still download my 2004 TRB paper CarSharing - Start Up Issues and New Operational Models from the Carsharing.net website here.  People tell me is still a useful overview, even though the technology sectiion is woefully out of date.

Frost and Sullivan — Martyn Briggs and his band of researchers at Frost and Sullivan have produced a number of very interesting reports about carsharing and future of mobility and the automotive sector in both North America and Europe over the past few years.  Of course, they'd really like to sell you the full reports.  Search their site for the latest press releases here.

CommunAuto — Special mention should be made of the extensive bibliography of both French and English research reports on carsharing, starting pre 1981 and extending to 2005.  This is a gold mine for history buffs.


Slideshare — And while we're on the topic of slide decks, there are a number of Powerpoints on Slideshare worth looking at.  I'd start with the one's that have the most views here.


For international research you mostly have to go to consultants like me or hope you find something useful at the websties of trade associations in various countries.

World Carshare Forum — Eric Britton has been interested in carsharing even long than I have and has been an inspiration to pioneers in the industry through the World CarShare Forum.  But as carsharing has become well-established he's broadened his interests into more general sustainable mobility topics.  He's tireless in just about every medium imaginable, Facebook, Linked In, etc. Well, worth a read.

CarPlus — The CarPlus Trust in the UK is another go-to source for English-langauge information about "car clubs" in the UK ("carsharing in the Queen's English is what we Colonists call "carpooling").  They're an umbrella organization, setting standards and promoting the car club idea all over the British Isles and their best practice guides and annual report of car clubs is a model that every cities and, indeed, other countries should emulate. You'll also find references to reports by Dr. Scott LeVine of the Royal Auto Club Foundation in the Resources section, such as his recent Car Rental 2.0.

BCSBundesverband Car Sharing (Federal Association of Car Sharing) headed by long-time carsharing researcher/advocate Dr. Willi Loose, is the trade group for the carsharing industry in Germany and they also publish a useful annual report.  They have an abbreviated but useful summary of international research on their website translated here.  As with other country sites, you can search for the cities that offer casharing - and in Germany that can be daunting, since there are over 110 companies offering carsharing in Germany.

France — Somewhat suprisingly, there's no organization representing all the carsharing services in France.  The Autopartage France group of cooperative carsharing services has recently rebranded itself as the Citiz Network.  They link to a very interesting national survey of carsharing in France translated here.   An interesting, if a bit purist, discussion forum about autopartage is La Voiture Autrement, machine translated into English here.

Australia — has several major carshares serving multiple cities.  The Australian government has published several reports about carsharing over the years.

Japan — Not surprisingly, given the density and cost of owning a car carsharing has taken off in Japan with a major parking operator and car rental firm offering carsharing.  In addition, there are many smaller groups offering EVcarsharing services, as well as experimental programs from Toyota (Ha:Mo) and Nissan (Choimobi). Email me if you are interested in more information.

The rest of Asia — Without Google Search and GoogleTranslate, the scattered news articles about carsharing developments would be the inscrutable Orient!

And a final comment, do not overlook Wikipedia.  Even I am constantly discovering detailed stuff on Wikipedia I'd never seen before.

Happy hunting.  But don't say I didn't warn you!  That's what we consultants are in business for - to help you sort out the wheat from the chaff - much faster and more economically.





Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - Reflections on the Year in Carsharing


2013 has been another major year of carsharing developmentsm which are not only transforming urban mobility but transforming the carsharing industry itself.

Perhaps the not so surprising big news of 2013 is the continued rapid growth of membership and vehicles and the amazing take off of alt-taxi services.  I will admit, in the past I've been skeptical of the various projections of the size of the worldwide carsharing market made by various organizations and companies.  But, given the interest in big players, such as car rental and auto manufacturers, as well as the tremendous (insane?) amount of investment in dynamic ridesharing and alt-taxi companies like Sidecar, Lyft and Über, as well as the traction that carsharing, in particular one way/on demand carsharing, is getting I'm dialing down my skepticism.  We may hit those numbers in 2015 and 2020 - and apparently the auto manufacturers, insurance companies and others in the industry are starting to think so, too.

Overall, it's been another year of blurring the lines between carsharing and car rental.  Operationally, there's very little difference between traditional carsharing and putting a computer in a rental car and letting customers take them without going to the rental counter. The carshare/car rental companies themselves continue to blur these lines with varying strategies about insurance coverage (some state minimum liability only) and how fuel is handled (some with a "bring it back with the gauge at the same level as you picked up at").  I would argue that the big difference is where the cars are located - close to the customers or not?  (And even that may become moot when self-driving cars can come to you.)

There was another type of confusion among the news media, blogosphere and even researchers about about the differences between traditional "round trip" carsharing and one way/on demand carsharing services as if they were interchangeable.   One of my pet peeves for 2013 is headline writers who not infrequently title articles about ridesharing but call it carsharing.

So here are some thoughts about 2013 and what may be ahead in 2014.

Car rental companies take the next step in carsharing

In traditional round trip carsharing, the big news was the Avis Budget Group acquisition of Zipcar.  This bold move got Avis Budget off the sidelines and into game.  In only a few months, the new relationship appears to be providing some major operational benefits for Zipcar.

While a lot of attention was deservedly focused on the Avis Zipcar deal, I see it as part of the trend that the car rental companies putting technology in cars in efforts to increase convenience and lower transactions costs.  It's also part of the blurring of the lines between carsharing and car rental. 

Meanwhile in St. Louis, Enterprise finally made their next move - the acquisition of another local carshare - I-Go Carsharing in Chicago - and the rebranding of all their carshare services, including their extensive college and university operations, from WeCar (a name chosen in haste, I suspect) to Enterprise Carshare.   Although it's sad to see pioneer local operators (I-Go and earlier Philly Carshare) coming under the corporate umbrella, it certainly means that carsharing is going big time.



While Hertz was first to get into carsharing, their game plan seems to be closer to unattended car rental than classic carsharing. They've rebranded themselves for a third time, into Hertz 24/7 which ought to stick.  While they've got larger operations in Miami, Tampa and several other cities and campuses.  They've also created a nationwide network by placing a couple of cars with technology at many of their car rental locations, which should provide some convenience for travelers. 

(It's worth noting that US car rental companies aren't the only one's interested in carsharing.  In Europe Sixt has actively partnered with BMW and co-own and operate the DriveNow service in three cities.  EuropeCar had earlier partnered with Daimler for the car2go service operations, at least in Hamburg.   In Japan, Orix has the second largest carsharing fleet at about 1,800 vehicles at 1,100 locations.)

Where are the car manufacturers in all this?  Beyond the much publicized developments of one-way carsharing, the Volkswagen acquisition of Dutch carsharing company Greenwheels has largely been out of most peoples' attention.  If/when/how VW will integrate Quicar with Greenwheels remains to be seen.  Toyota has been quietly developing their Ha:Mo Ride ("harmonious mobility") service at headquarters in Toyota City and is preparing to put it on the street in Grenoble, France in 2014.  Toyota is also cooperating with the Hacienda Dash demonstration program, with 30 Scion IQ EVs in Pleasanton, California to be operated by City Carshare.  Meanwhile Nissan seems to be considering some sort of carsharing using the Twizy vehicle developed by Renault, and used in the electric Twizy Way demonstration project as well as the Bee (Be E) service in Naples, Italy.

P2P heads down two different roads

This year Getaround and Relayrides defined two somewhat different strategies - one with car technology, one without.  Both companies have punted on the issue of gas/mileage.

Ever since its first business plan competition, Getaround has been working on the CarKit.  I'm not sure what version they're on any more but they appear to have overcome most of the limitations of earlier versions, including immobilizer control (or lack of it) - the perennial friction point for all carsharing technology.  After launching Portland, Austin and Chicago Getaround has concentrated its efforts on refining its San Francisco Bay Area operations and now, has even obtained on-street parking places (like Zipcar and City Carshare) which puts it in the "big leagues" in a parking challenged city.

Getaround annoyed carsharing purists with a promotion for customers to buy a new Smart cars and include them in the Getaround fleet.  While it was counterintuitive (even to me), it's a clever strategy to get more vehicles listed and fuel efficient one's at that, and quite within the parameters of the P2P insurance rules set up in California, Oregon (and Washington which went into effect on January 1, 2014).  Unfortunately, Getaround's focus on San Francisco has somewhat dampened their participation in a major federal research project (Value Pricing Project) in Portland to track vehicle owner behavior after making their vehicle available for carsharing (but I, and others, are hopeful that they will get back on track in 2014).  


Meanwhile, just around the corner and down the street P2P competitor, RelayRides, announced in September they were going to forgo in-car technology altogether and pursue a nationwide - all states are open for business strategy.  All transactions are executed with "key swap" between the vehicle owner and renter.  This results in longer, more car rental-like trips and probably has somewhat lower transaction costs; nevertheless, it certainly appears to be a viable business approach.  The shift away from in-car technology means the much ballyhoo'd partnership with GM/On-Star is essentially moot.

FlightCar jumped into the P2P world with a focus on airport rentals, going after the home turf of the big car rental companies.  In the process they got itself in trouble and back out again, as San Francisco International Airport came to terms with P2P carsharing.  In a fit of marketing pique, RelayRides claimed to have more vehicles at more airports, but so far, even including automated rental company Silvercar (now at five airports), these challengers are only flies buzzing around the rental counters and kiosks of the big rental companies.  

One Way/On Demand, Point to Point, Flexible Carsharing

Whatever you choose to call it, one way/on demand been the media darling of carsharing in 2013.  

Daimler's Car2Go continues its Smart car blitzkrieg (I couldn't resist) of launching new cities, now with 12 cities in North America and 13 cities in Europe and UK.  The services appear to be doing well, and, at the per minute equivalent of $24 per hour (after the recent price increase to 41¢ per minute), it certainly would appear tohave the potential to make money.

Car2Go shown admirable willingness to experiment - offering all-electric fleets in San Diego and Amsterdam (which do not have to be returned to charging stations, similar to other cities with gas-powered Smarts) and all off street parking in Toronto, in 250+ city-owned and private parking garages.  

But one way carsharing is not restricted to the big guys.  In Montreal, very successful round-trip carsharing operator CommunAuto started a new chapter by operating a one way/on demand service called Auto Mobile.  It started as a pilot project with 25+ Nissan Leaf EVs serving a limited area, but in only a few months has expanded the number of vehicles and neighborhoods served and is including hybrid vehicles as well.  A few months after the launch of Automoible, Car2Go entered the Montreal market, so it is now the first city in the North America with competing one way services.  My hat is off to CommunAuto as it joins StadtAuto Hannover and Mannheim as the only other traditional carshare to jump into the waters of one way.  But more are on the way for 2014: there's talk that Mobility Switzerland may get into the one way carsharing and a long awaited RFP in Tel Aviv will likely be awarded.

Meanwhile, in the US BMW's DriveNow continues to struggle without on-street parking in San Francisco.  While they have developed is very handy SFO and Oakland airport service - with drop off at off-airport parking locations (I know not as green as taking BART but still it's electric).   San Francisco isn't the only city in the US, so perhaps they have something up their sleeve for 2014?  

While I'm back on the subject of airport carsharing again, I would mention that the Avis connection for Zipcar enabled them to start placing vehicles at airports - lots of them.  These vehicles must be returned to the airports and are not one way.  Hertz 24/7 and Car2Go have allowed airport pick up/drop off for several years - Hertz in New York City and Car2Go in Austin.

This past year Bolloré/IER announced they would be bringing a version of the Paris Autolib' service to Indianapolis, Indiana.  Indianapolis is rapidly evolving into a very livable small city and just a few hundred miles from Car2Go's unexpected location of Columbus, Ohio.  Few specifics have been announced beyond a 2014 launch date.

The expansion of one way/on demand carsharing has been hampered by the reluctance and slowness of cities to develop policies that would allow these services to operate.  These include on-street parking permission and payment mechanism for metered parking.  To this end, in early December Dr. Susan Shaheen at UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center, convened One Way Carsharing Workshop.  In addition to discussing data privacy issues for several upcoming research projects, Dr. Shaheen's proposal for the creation of a consortium of one way operators was well received.  I was pleased to be able to attend this meeting and be able to include my colleague Hannes Schrier from team red Germany via phone.

Ridesharing, Bikesharing and Transit

While my focus has always been carsharing, the rapid growth of dynamic ridesharing and alt-taxi companies, such as Sidecar, Lyft and Über, the media buzz and incredible amount of venture capital that flowed into the space certainly suggests some big changes are ahead. Bikesharing is another new transportation mode that is very popular in cities.   While some may see these new services as minor players, it's worth remembering that several auto manufacturers see the future in providing integrated transportation solutions.  Daimler has also invested in Moovel and BMW, in addition to DriveNow has a parking finding service called ParkNow, and an "app" of lifestyle and transportation called My City Way.


As mentioned above, one of the major challenges is helping institutions, local, state and federal governments update their thinking and their policies to enable these new services to compete fairly with existing transportation services and modes to the benefit of all.  To this end the tireless Susan Shaheen, Madonna Camel and the entire TSRC staff at UC Berkeley, organized the Shared Use Mobility Summit in San Francisco on October 10-11.  The audience packed the Hilton ballroom for two days of sessions with industry and government leaders, and top thinkers in transportation.  I was pleased to moderate the session on policy recommendations.

And speaking of conferences, I was also pleased to speak at the Carshare Europe conference in Brussels in July.  It was sponsored by New Transit magazine in the UK and brought together a wide array of industry people for a very interesting conference.

EVs and Technology

In spite of the high hopes of EV enthusiasts, most carsharing continues to be powered by gasoline.  Given the higher cost of battery electric vehicles (EVs), without special funding or incentives most carsharing programs have only a few EVs in their fleets.  Car2Go has demonstrated the feasibility of operating a one-way service with the vehicles mostly untethered from the charging stations - in San Diego and Amsterdam.  As mentioned above Renault has demonstrated the feasibility of a Twizy-based one way service in a suburb of Paris, and a stand-alone Twizy service opened in Naples, Italy.  Meanwhile, Toyota, never short of innovative vehicle concept ideas has developed their own lightweight electric vehicle, the i-Road, which will be incorporated into the Grenoble Ha:mo project mentioned above.  But in 2013 Kandi Technologies in China appears to have the most fully developed EV casharing service (see this post).

In carsharing technology the platform providers, such as Metavera, Mobility InternationalJustShareIt, RentCentric and Cantamen continued to add features.  Hardware providers, such as Invers ConvadisC2G Logic (Pointer/Cellocator)Miveo (formerly Pilotfish), and others have moved closer toward simplifying installation and reliability.

A Side Note about Marketing


Regular readers are aware of my interest in marketing, so I can't help but pay my respects to the people that came up with Lyft's pink mustache campaign.  It's genius - friendly, funny and easy to identify.  I think it converted a potentially disastrous challenge to the taxi industry in several cities and played a part in challenging government agencies to at least begin to update their policies to begin to recognize these new modes while continuing to protect riders.  

And honorable mentions goes to CommunAuto for the name of their one way service Auto Mobile, a great play on words in French and English.

Also to Zipcar for continuing to do a great job developing their lifestyle brand and their relentless pursuit of "millennials", through research reports, such as this one about the benefits of "pay as you live" lifestyle from the UK and their latest effort being the creation of Ziptopia, an online lifestyle magazine.  While I don't expect to see it in doctors' offices anytime soon, I will read it on my iPad whenever it comes out.  

And to Car2Go for their often inspired and incessant use of Twitter.  I especially enjoyed the picture (above) of newly married couple in their car2go.

Finally, although it isn't from a carsharing company, I can't resist including one of the cleverest ad videos I've ever seen - the Honda "Hands" commercial.  It follows on from earlier commercial "Cog" commercial.

Thanks to all my friends, colleagues at team red and correspondents in the carsharing and transportation world - 2013 was a good year.  Here's to an exciting, prosperous and somewhat disruptive 2014.