Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Interview with German Carsharing Association director Willi Loose

The Michelin Group sponsors the annual Challenge Bibendum to showcase better mobility, automotive efficiency and new technologies.  [Bibendum is the name of the "Michelin Man" used in Michelin corporate advertising

The following interview with Willi Loose, the head of the German Casharing Association (BCS - Bundesverband Car Sharing) is machine-translated from the German edition of Challenge Bibendum website  4-24-2013.  Your editor has updated some of machine-translation grammar for understanding.  Thank you Michelin for this excellent interview.


Willi Loose is Managing Director of the German Federation of Carsharing (BCS), which currently has 110 German carsharing provider as its members. According BCS it had at the beginning of this year, more than 453,000  members of driving both station-based and "free-floating" car-sharing, and about 11,250 carsharing vehicles. We spoke to this carsharing expert on the development of the industry, the various offers with their advantages and disadvantages as well as useful measures for continued high growth of carsharing industry.

Challenge Bibendum: With rising fuel costs will inevitably increase the cost of car-sharing services. How can alternative forms of propulsion, especially the electric mobility, contribute to the problem? Help electric car2go fleet as paving the way for the general acceptance of electric cars in Germany?
Willi Loose: Rising fuel costs contribute only to a small extent to the cost of the general use of car, if one assumes an average driving performance and up to a four year old car. In fact, the finance charge and the depreciation of a car play a significant role. These fixed costs are allocated when carsharing on many shoulders, but the private car owner bears all these fixed costs alone. In addition, the car-sharing user has the full control of his car costs, since they are predominantly or almost exclusively of user cost.

Electric cars are much more expensive than vehicles with conventional drive under the current conditions in the overall cost. If the car sharing provider want to pass on their actual costs, would electric vehicles in carsharing fleets so be borrowed at a higher rate than comparable sizes of vehicle, which is not accepted by the users. The lower consumption (electricity versus fuel) compared to the lower holding period of commercially leased vehicles not sufficient. The electric vehicles currently offered by car manufacturers in carsharing fleets are offered below cost, here certainly play marketing aspects of electric vehicles manufacturing companies the main role. Cost-effective electric vehicles will only be when the battery costs drop significantly.

Many car users to try out electric vehicles in carsharing fleets for the first time. In this respect they may also prepare the ground so that motorists know the technology and can collect their own experiences with the range. In our view, make electric vehicles in carsharing fleets more sense, because the range does not really matter. At the carsharing station is next to the electric car also always a conventionally powered vehicle. The carsharing customer can choose whether he makes his next trip to the electric vehicle, or - for long journeys - with the conventional vehicle.

Challenge Bibendum: What does the typical car sharer look like today and what distinguishes them from customers at the beginning of the 1990s?
Willi Loose: Here we must distinguish between the typical carsharing customers in station-based carsharing [editor note: for example Zipcar] and the customers of the floating on-street parking carsharing services from some automakers [ed. note: for example car2go].
The station-based carsharing has developed continuously since 1988, and is now available in 343 cities and towns in Germany. First, environmentally-oriented people were the pioneer generation of car sharers. This group grew gradually to the extent that through cooperation of providers other user groups have been addressed. The typical user in the station-based carsharing are between 30 and 60 years old, the proportion of men here is about 55 to 60 percent. In addition to the environmental friendliness of this deal, customers are interested in convenient usage and cost.

The new one-way offerings from the automakers is attracting other users offer their flexibility and their use of social media. These have majority a majority of members between 25 and 35 years, with the share of males is up to 80 percent. Common to all is that carsharing participants have a higher than average formal education.
About a quarter of carsharing members are commercial customers, i.e. employees of companies and administrations that do their official journeys by car sharing. Here the cost and ease of handling are paramount in motives for use.

Challenge Bibendum: Have station-based providers a safe future in the coming years as with such high membership growth rates [of one-way carsharing services] as in the record year of 2012? The ability to leave the car at any place seems much more attractive.
Willi Loose: This question is from the outside, that car manufacturers have announced that they will come with their first offer is only in German cities over 500,000 inhabitants. Further spread of the offerings as last year is therefore not expected. This is also consistent with the announcements for this year.At the moment there are the offers of the [one-way services] in six German cities (including Ulm/Neu-Ulm), the station-based offerings, however in 343 cities and towns.

In contrast, afford the station-based offerings for many years real development work by opening up piece by piece, new cities and towns for the car-sharing, which is consciously accepted that they also develop sites with poorer earnings prospects.

But even in the big cities, where there are freely available next to the station based offerings in the street spacecraft, have the station-based continuing good development opportunities. Both services cover partly different usage requirements. The user fees of free-floating vendors are comparatively high and has just been increased. Longer journeys or longer rental periods are much cheaper at the station-based offerings. The rates of the station-based offerings are low on both the short as well as longer trips and even for holiday trips accepted by customers as a cost-effective (compared to the costs saved their own cars).
In addition, the station-based services can be booked well in advance and are therefore available for longer trips planned in advance to the desired time reliably available.

Challenge Bibendum: Is there any information on whether and how many customers combine different providers, i.e. use both station-based and free-floating offers?
Willi Loose: We have no reliable information about this.  However, indications are that this overlap will increase in the future. However, there are indications that their customers sign up in cities where multiple free-floating vendors co-exist (for example in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne), up to a significant proportion of both parties.

Challenge Bibendum: Germany is in the use of car-sharing in international comparison in second place - where we can learn something from other countries anyway and where can you take us an example?
Willi Loose: You can look at the results from two perspectives. In the absolute number of members, the U.S. is number one, which is due to the larger population there. But you can also compare the proportion of car sharers is in proportion to the total population. Here, Switzerland is world number one by a large margin. The share of Swiss car-sharing membership in comparison to the total population is about five to six times as high as ours. The explanation is, in our view, that in Switzerland the public transport is much more reliable and expanded networked all over the country. Moreover, the lack of a car industry in Switzerland means that there is no counter argument that national attention should be given to the jobs in the auto industry. Here so much we could learn from Switzerland.
Picture of Stadtmobil Hannover station-based vehicle (foreground) and free floating vehicle (background)

Challenge Bibendum: How much should cooperate with carsharing service provider of public transport in order to benefit from each other?
Willi Loose: Every collaboration with mobility providers, help to reduce the private car ownership and therefore is desirable and useful. It will expand in the future much more than before, highlighting the service concept of mobility. Only then can each bring their own specific benefits to full advantage in transport. But this will only succeed if the offers are linked together in a region, are applied together, the access to these services is made possible with a common electronic [access] card - will be charged the deals with a common calculation mobility - as the final stage of development. The topic must, however, be treated with the utmost sensitivity. The network must be without discrimination and involve all interested providers. Is also very sensitive to the question of who organized the customer data.

Challenge Bibendum: How can further expand the already great deals you today to realize in the future growth of up to 20 percent annually?
Willi Loose: Tenders (ed. note "RFPs"] have been repeatedly expanded to attractive customer-oriented services in recent years. This development will also continue in the coming years. Hanover experiences with the first combined offering in Germany from Hanover Stadtmobil, in which a primarily station-based car-sharing system is mixed with a smaller free-floating supply. Customers can therefore choose to have the same rates as their provider, which is the right system for their next trip. We are very sure that in the station-based car-sharing similar the future growth rates can be achieved as before or higher.

Challenge Bibendum: Where do you currently still obstacles and barriers to car sharing? Of cooperation which carsharing could currently benefit the most?
Willi Loose: We have our National Development Plan Carsharing published in March 2012, in which we have formulated demands and expectations of the federal policy. The goal is to have a tenfold increase in the number of car-sharing members in Germany within ten years if the policies are set to consistently promote car sharing. So far, this is mainly manifested in words, but which must be followed by consistent action. Some requirements are: consistent involvement of support measures for carsharing in climate protection and sustainability plans as well as transport development concepts, an information campaign on the part of the Federal Government and the ministries, a legally satisfactory arrangement to provide carsharing parking spaces on-street (for station-based offers) and more. These expectations are to be transferred in part to the state and local level. The paper is available on our website [[ed. note: here is English translation of the page] to download.

Challenge Bibendum: Do you need to explain carsharing in everyday life or is the most common topic for most people already?
Willi Loose: Although most people in Germany have already heard of carsharing, the exact information about how it actually works and how easy they could integrate carsharing use in their own everyday mobility is not yet sufficiently widespread. Even so-called experts here often have gaps in their knowledge. Most is gained if you can convince interested parties of a first try.

Challenge Bibendum: How do you move yourself continuing?
Willi Loose: I am in the privileged position to have a [German Railroad discount card "Bahn Card 100"], with which I can do the vast majority of my business trips. Included in the rail card 100 is the use of public transport in about 80 cities in Germany, so I can get on local buses, subways and trams without thinking and without looking at the vending machine at the station. To work in Berlin, I am getting around by subway or bicycle, depending on weather and destinations. Cycling and public transport are also my preferred means of transport for personal trips.  It has been 20 years since I owned a private car more and I do not miss it.

Challenge Bibendum: Thanks for the interview.