Passionate as we might all be about cars, there’s an uncomfortable truth about privately owned vehicles: they’re being used less than five per cent of the time on average, despite the high cost of depreciation, insurance and maintenance.
Car sharing theoretically combines the freedom of a private vehicle while maximising their use. It’s widely regarded as one of the four pillars that will define the car industry in the near-future: Autonomous, Connected, Electrified, Shared (ACES).
Car sharing can be peer-to-peer or a managed fleet.
“Peer to peer” is exactly what it sounds like. You loan out your private vehicle to other people when you’re not using it, by the hour, by the day… whatever you like. There’s usually a service that manages these loans to bring providers and users together.
Some peer-to-peer services, such as mycaryourcarrental.com (it’s a Kiwi execution of a service that hails from Denmark) require the owner to physically hand over the keys to the renter, but many run on keyless mobile-phone based access. Most post-2005 vehicles are compatible with this technology.
Sounds great, although it’s not always easy being green. Yourdrive, formerly New Zealand’s largest peer-to-peer car-sharing service, halted operations in March after 10,000 trips and over $1m of earnings for its car-owning sharers. The company cited the lack of scale in NZ as the reason.
Another pioneering NZ car-share service, Roam, also seems to have disappeared.
While peer-to-peer services might be struggling in NZ, fleet-based operations are growing. In this business model, the provider owns all the cars and members simply pay to use them.
Isn’t that just like renting? Well yes. But you can have the vehicle for as little time or as long as you need and booking one is as simple as clicking a button on your mobile.
Two of the most high-profile, CityHop and Mevo, offer vehicles stationed at various points in main centres (Mevo is currently Wellington only).
Mevo has taken things to the next level by offering Australasia’s first “free floating” car share. What that means is you can pick up and drop anywhere within an approved area - in Mevo’s case, the Wellington CBD and most of many outer suburbs. It’s basically the e-scooter rideshare model, but applied to cars.
There’s always been a strong ethos of car ownership among Kiwis. The secret to car sharing is making it better than owning your own, says Mevo founder and chief executive Erik Zydervelt (pictured above left).
“That’s a high bar because owning a car can be pretty great sometimes,” says Zydervelt.
“But having the ability to park anywhere in the city, being able to drive to the airport and just walk away, never having to worry about cleaning and only paying for what you use… that’s pretty awesome as well.”
It doesn’t hurt that Mevo’s fleet cars are pretty nice – a mixture of Volkswagen Polo and Audi A3 e-tron models. Typical pricing is 60 cents per minute for short trips or a cap of $75-$125 per day, depending on which car you choose.
Client and fleet numbers are kept confidential. “But I can tell you we have thousands of members doing thousands of trips every month,” says Zydervelt.
He argues that the concept appeals strongly to the eco-intellect: “International research shows that every car-sharing vehicle deployed takes 10 others off the road. Any emissions we do make, we offset by 120 per cent [from certified forest projects]”.
While Covid-19 has put the brakes on some peer-to-peer services, Mevo has been booming since lockdown, says Zydervelt: “We’re seeing a lot of people using us to get to work, for example, and we think that’s because we keep the cars at a high level of cleanliness.
“It’s keeping people in their bubble and away from the general public – not being exposed to drivers who are exposed to many other people in a ride-sharing situation like a taxi.”
Zydervelt acknowledges car sharing still might not be for everybody. “But when it’s better... it’s so much better”.