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The Future of Urban Mobility

On 13 June the ECCT's Automotive hosted a special event on the topic "The future of urban mobility - car2go, moovel & and how people move today and tomorrow with guest speaker Rainer Becker, Head of Business Development Asia-Pacific, moovel GmbH moovel GmbH. Becker spoke about his company's ground-breaking car sharing business model.

Growing urbanization has resulted in more people in the same area and consequently more congestion, more pollution and less parking. Today's world needs new mobility concepts. moovel's mobility solution, which has been successfully implemented in cities in Europe and the United States has a lot of potential in Asia, especially given the number of crowded cities.

Today, more space in cities is used for parking than for schools, meaning that far too much space is used for storing dead metal than for educating our kids. There are number of trends that make moovel's business model possible. For the modern generation, access trumps ownership, meaning that people care less about ownership than having easy access to goods and services when they need them. People used to want to own things like cars but now we have moved from conspicuous consumption to collaborative consumption. Another important trend is "always on connectivity". Smart phones are changing our lives and behavior. Today, one billion smartphones are in use and by 2017, this will have risen to 3.2 billion. Smart phones give us transferency, meaning they give us all the necessary information to allow us to use a variety of transport options. For example, if a person has time and wants to save money, the best option is to use public transport. However, if she has a lot of goods to carry or it is raining, she would probably prefer to have a car. In other cases, if someone has been out for a night on the town, he should not drive and would therefore need a taxi. What these trends indicate is that people don't just want one means of transport. They want to have multiple options. This does not imply that we don't need public transport. We still need public transport but we need to recognize that public transport is never door to door and it is sometimes not the best option.

moovel's APP offers the right transport option for each situation by providing an integrated mobility network that offers all options in one solution. moovel links different mobility providers and shows the best way from A to B. car2go, mytaxi, rental bikes and public transport providers are partners in Berlin, Stuttgart, Nurnberg, Rhine-Ruhr and Munich.

Car2go solves part of mobility challenge. Each car2go can replace up to 15 vehicles. This will save space currently wasted by parking so many cars as well as significantly reduce pollution. The system is simple, can be used any time and any place. Buying a car to use once a day is very inefficient.Car2go meets people's demand for affordability and is convenient at the same time. Existing car sharing models with stations at specific time and place are too inflexible. Car2go is much more flexible. Cars can be parked anywhere where legal parking is possible (moovel made arrangements with participating cities for paying for parking). Using the moovel APP, users can see where available cars are at any time and can get access to cars at any time. Pricing is by the minute of driving time. There are no monthly fees or hidden charges. Besides convenience, this also has an environmental benefit because it encourages users to really think carefully about whether or not they really need a car at any given time.

To become a car2go user, customers need to register and download the APP. The APP tells users where to locate an available car. Any car can be used. Currently, users need a membership card but in future they will be able to swipe their smartphones to get into the car. The car will open within four seconds. Users then sign in with a pin and the car can then be driven to and parked in any legal parking spot. All the costs (petrol, parking and insurance) are included. moovel tends to use small cars (such as Smart Cars) because they are easy to park and require small parking spaces. After parking, the user logs out, returns the key and uses the card to lock the car. Currently car2go is offered in 25 locations in Europe and the United States with a total fleet of 11,000 vehicles and used by 700,000 customers. Each car is used an average of six to eight times a day. A car2go is rented every two seconds somewhere in the world.

car2go's fleets in three cities - Amsterdam, Stuttgart and San Diego - are electric. 300 smart fortwo are used in Amsterdam, 350 in San Diego and 500 in Stuttgart. Altogether around 1,250 electric vehicles in operation are electric. Electric vehicles are a good solution but there are a number of difficulties that have to be addressed. Moovel has learnt a lot about EVs from its experience. It is vital to have a comprehensive charging infrastructure in place. There must be hundreds of charging stations in place for the system to be convenient. This requires commitment on the part of city governments. The city of Amsterdam is a good example of a city that invested in infrastructure. It took the city only six months to plan and reach an agreement on how to roll out its system. Various authorities in Amsterdam also worked together to make the system successful. This is a problem in other cities where different authorities are responsible for traffic safety and for environmental issues, often with conflicting interests.

Amsterdam allows free parking for electric vehicles and ensures a new charging pole for every EV purchased. As of May 2014, the city had 850 charging poles in the city and plans to install a further 2,000 charging poles by the end of 2015. The city also encourages offers incentives to people who buy EVs by installing charging stations right outside their houses. This is not easy and is expensive. Other problems include the fact that EV technology is relatively new and standardization is not yet universal for charging stations. Another issue is convenience. Charging stations and cables are outside and affected by the elements. Plugging in cars can therefore be a dirty business. The current charging stations take six to eight hours to recharge cars completely and 4-5 hours to recharge to 80%. In future there needs to be a quick-charging standard and infrastructure in place to make it as convenient as traditional cars. Moreover, the business case for EVs is still expensive. EV cars are still more expensive than traditional cars to produce and insurance costs are higher. Economies of scale will make EVs cheaper but we are still in the initial phase.

The car2go business itself has been a work in progress. Many approaches have been tried to improve the system. Car2go users tend to be responsible and feel like they are part of a kind of community. Members are customers and tend to help to keep cars clean and safe. For petrol cars, users get an additional 20 free minutes if they fill up with petrol. When users log in they rate the level of cleanliness, which reflects on the record of the previous user. Nevertheless, the cars inevitably become dirty and people have to be employed to clean and maintain them.

Becker concluded that for a car sharing system to succeed, resistance from traditional car owners will have to be overcome and all stakeholders will need to work together to create the right conditions for sustainable success.