Photo: Oliver Lang
16.05.2020 | 5 minutes

Carsharing on the rise: An opportunity for vehicle fleets

ShareNow, Sixt share, WeShare: Residents of the major cities in Germany couldn’t picture a life without carsharing. Even companies are recognising the benefits of corporate carsharing and following suit.

There are rental cars at nearly every corner for those shorter distances in the city. This trend is booming thanks to easy access to shared vehicles via apps on smartphones. But it’s nothing new: The title of the world’s first carsharing company is held by a Swiss-based cooperative that was founded back in 1948. But it has been only in the last eight years or so that the numbers have skyrocketed.

Digitalization has played a major role in it. There are two different models of commercial carsharing:

  • Station-based: This model has been around for a long time. Cars are available to the user at specific parking spaces. The vehicles must then be returned to these spaces again.
  • Free-floating: In this model it doesn’t matter where the user parks the car as long as the location is within the provider’s area of operations. It usually covers a large part of the city.

There were 13,400 of these “free-floating vehicles” in Germany in January 2020, along with 12,000 station-based carsharing vehicles. The distribution among the providers is unequal: There are 219 carsharing companies with station-based services throughout Germany, but only seven free-floating providers.

The largest providers in Germany are ShareNow (a cooperation between Daimler and BMW), Sixt share, We share from Volkswagen, and Miles. Their presence has been steadily increasing since 2012. Back then, there were just about 1,000 free-floating vehicles and almost 6,000 station-based cars, but now there are nearly 13 times as many freely available carsharing vehicles. In terms of customers, free-floating has even more clearly overtaken the station-based offers. 1.58 million customers used ShareNow and other carsharing services on 1 January 2020 – more than twice as many as with station-based providers.

Car sharing is part of everyday life in many German cities, as this parking lot in Ulm with its fleet of vehicles shows. Photo:Stefan Puchner dpa/lsw

But the trend towards carsharing is not only reflected in private driving behavior. Corporate carsharing is also becoming increasingly popular. After all, a shared vehicle fleet offers a number of advantages for companies. For example, personal mobility budgets can be defined per employee, which makes costs much more transparent.

There are two options for companies that want to use carsharing services:

  • A framework agreement with a public carsharing provider: In this case, the company uses the existing vehicle network just as it does for private use – but at a company rate. This model is suitable for companies whose own vehicle fleet is not fully utilized or where mobility requirements fluctuate greatly and are therefore difficult to plan. Carsharing can be both a supplement to the vehicle fleet or it can completely replace it. For this model to ensure that enough vehicles are available, some carsharing companies offer “block” bookings to reserve the cars. This model only charges for the actual mileage (“pay-per-use”), which means there is no need for vehicle maintenance, such as taxes, fuel, or costs for parking. In addition, the billing is much more transparent.

  • Carsharing as a method for your own fleet: The vehicles can be purchased or leased. They must be equipped with the specific technology before they can be used as shared vehicles. Of course, this is also possible for cars that the company already has. Various carsharing companies offer a corresponding reservation software that companies can use for their vehicle fleet. This simplifies reservation and accounting processes, in particular. The cars are then flexibly available to the employees.

Corporate carsharing is not only an image and cost factor, but can also have a very positive effect on the environmental balance. Many carsharing providers have a great number of electric cars. The provider for the Volkswagen Group, We share, even relies entirely on its own e-Golf. At the same time, users can make use of the existing charging station network, if they even have to worry about the range.

Most employees would welcome a carsharing solution in their company: One in four would even be prepared to unconditionally give up their company car in return, and almost half would agree to this under certain circumstances.


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