Monday, July 06, 2015

Naming the Varieties of Carsharing

Readers of my blog and Twitter feed (@carsharing_us) know that I'm a bit obsessed with using the correct names for various types of mobility services.  This is my attempt to sort things out:

First, there's the distinction between car rental and carsharing:
  • Car rental - centralized locations; usually daily rental; but there have been examples of half-day and even hourly car rental; usually requires completing a new rental contract for each trip, fuel and insurance (beyond mandated minimums) not included in the rates;
  • Carsharing ("car club" in the UK) - distributed locations, close to users home and work; electronic system allows unattended access to the vehicle; gasoline and full coverage (not minimum) insurance is included in per hour or per minute rates.
However, the distinction between these two is increasing getting blurred as car rental companies install carsharing technology in vehicles to enable unattended car rental.  Some Round Trip carsharing services, such as Enterprise Carshare, do not provide full insurance coverage and some Peer to Peer services do not include fuel but require the user to fill up the tank no matter how little the vehicle was use (not very convenient).

Then there are all the variety of carsharing.  Right now, here's my preferred naming for various types of carsharing:
  • Round trip carsharing— "classic" carsharing, must have a reservation with beginning and end time; vehicle must be returned to its home station
    • Peer to Peer (P2P) - a variation of Round Trip carsharing, the primary difference being that private individuals own the fleet;
    • Fractional ownership - several people go in together and buy a vehicle and share the use of it; examples: Audi Unité in Sweden and Germany or GoMore Leasing in Denmark;
    • Informal - such as neighbors buying a pick up truck together; usually a variation of Fractional Ownership but may be as simple as repeated borrowing of your parents' or neighbors' vehicle; usually no technology is involved;
    • Business or company carsharing - company or government fleets with carsharing technology (telematics and online scheduling) to improve fleet utilization and cost effectiveness.
  • Flexible carsharing (my current preferred term) — one way/on demand services like Car2Go or Autolib'; these may be either: 
    • Free floating - cars park on the street in any legal parking space,  like most Car2Go cities or Enjoy in Italy; or
    • Station-based - cars can only park in designated garages, parking lots or at electric vehicle charging stations (Autolib' & Bolloré BlueIndy).*
This chart, from Julian Espiritu does a nice job of laying out a continuum of round trip car sharing options - from rental car to P2P carsharing.

You may ask, why is this important?  For the simple reason that governments are forming partnerships, and sometimes providing incentives for carsharing, sometimes on the basis of little or no information about what the public policy benefits of carsharing really are.  In other cases, claims have been made, by companies who know better, of benefits that either haven't actually been demonstrated or are based on information that applies to a different type of carsharing.

*note that Car2Go in Toronto does not offer floating parking on street but all trips must be ended in authorized parking garages - more than 300 within the Home area. station-based.  And in San Diego, and Amsterdam, even though the Car2Go fleet is 100% electric the vehicles do not have to be returned to charging stations, but the provides users as incentive if they do.