Mobile, flexible and eco-friendly – the car sharing boom is not limited to Germany alone
For a several years now city dwellers – in Germany and around the globe – have been making greater use of car sharing services in order to ease the burden on the environment. But car sharing has other advantages, too.
The car sharing model first made its appearance in Germany in mid-1988 when the initiative StattAuto Berlin started organising the joint use of cars as an affordable and ecologically friendly alternative to actually owning an automobile. It was not long before other cities followed suit with their own car sharing services, for example Aachen, Bremen and Freiburg. According to the German Federal Carsharing Association (bcs), by the start of 2014 more than 750,000 German citizens were registered as car sharers with approximately 150 service providers in 380 cities and municipalities. In comparison with 2013, this equals an increase of 67.1 percent.
Station-based or free-floating car sharing
Today there are two distinctive types of car sharing services in Germany: station-based car sharing in which the car is fetched from and returned to a predetermined place and free-floating services that allow people to park the car in any public space they wish. And although the fixed-based service providers are trying to make their services available city wide at places their clients can easily reach on foot, by bike, bus or train, users much prefer the free-floating offers owing the greater flexibility they offer.
However, for the German Federal Carsharing Association (bcs), the free-floating offers launched by car manufacturers in cooperation with a car rental company in order to get in on this increasingly successful trend do not amount to car sharing in the true sense. To justify its stance, bcs quotes studies that prove that station-based car sharers consistently drive less, are more likely to give up their own car and also make greater use of public transport than most of the free-floating customers who use services by DriveNow (BMW and Sixt) or car2go (Daimler and Europcar).
Mobility, flexibility, environmental awareness: A lot of good reasons to car share
If you ask someone why they car share, they always say it is because of the immense flexibility they have to rent a wide range of different car types to meet their different needs – depending on their contract and the price. And they can do this for shorter periods of time and with less notification up front and less effort than with a rental car. A lot of city dwellers do not want to run a car because of the costs involved, the lack of parking spaces or because of the environment. However, now and again they do need one – be it for the big weekly shop or for a family trip to the countryside. Car sharing is the ideal compromise here. Moreover, more and more people who have to travel frequently on business are turning to car sharing as a more favourably priced alternative to expensive taxis.
Carsharing in the City
Car sharing international
In an international comparison, Germany ranks behind Switzerland, Austria and Canada as one of the countries in which car sharing is most often used. However, car sharing is not only a trend in Western Europe and North America. More and more countries in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe are turning to car sharing – like China for example where the environment is increasingly under threat from the volume of traffic. In August 2014 a group of city planners from the South Chinese city of Guangzhou visited the northern German city of Bremen to hear Michael Glotz-Richter, Senior Project Manager for Sustainable Mobility, explain how car sharing works there. ‘China is now reaching its limits in terms of motorisation – or has already exceeded them. They are desperately searching for solutions and, because they have too many cars in their cities, Bremen naturally serves as a good place for them to learn how things can be done differently,’ says Glotz-Richter.
Jiangtao Li from the ‘Institute of Urban Innovation’ is not only impressed by the use of car sharing but by Bremen’s entire traffic concept overall which relies heavily on public transport and a good network of bicycle paths and has successfully reduced the number of cars on the road. The Chinese planners deduced from their visit that adopting the Bremen car sharing system 1:1 would not, on its own, suffice to resolve the traffic problem in Guangzhou but that the model applied in the 'green Hanseatic city’ could still serve as an example for mobilising people – wherever they are in the world – to adopt a new way of thinking in traffic issues.