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Electric car sharing boosts overall car-sharing interest

Date: 02 November 2018   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Zipcar's electric car-sharing scheme has witnessed some interesting results. Rachel Boagey investigates.

Zipcar's new electric car-sharing service has sparked a new transport trend in London with electric vehicle (EV) car sharing contributing to a significant upsurge in the popularity of the practice.

The car-sharing company introduced its first EVs to its fleet three months ago on the streets of London, and says the service is proving a hit with city dwellers, reporting that more than 6,000 drivers have already undertaken in excess of 20,000 trips with its fleet of EVs since the launch.  

In fact, Zipcar believes its new EV offering is helping to create a surge in car sharing in the capital. Its UK membership is now at 230,000 and has grown by 25% in 2018 alone. 

Speaking to BusinessCar about Zipcar's recent findings, Jonathan Hampson, general manager for Zipcar UK, said, "First and foremost, we are offering Londoners a great car at a great price. Add on to this the effect of a growing awareness and concern about poor air quality and we are not surprised at all about how keen our members have been to embrace these EVs."

Hampson says that while the company passionately believes that electric car sharing is the way forward for Londoners when it comes to driving in the capital, until now EV driving has presented too many challenges, including a lack of charging points and high costs, which is why it's been slow to take off.

He tells us that Zipcar has focused on removing those pain points. "Zipcar handles all the charging so our members don't have to, and our EVs are priced at just 31p per minute or £14 per hour, making EV driving more affordable and accessible." 

The car-sharing company has partnered with Volkswagen to bring 325 e-Golfs onto its fleet.

Hampson said, "For most Londoners, EVs are firmly out of reach and this is for two reasons. Firstly, they remain quite expensive - through our partnership with Volkswagen we have removed this barrier entirely. At 31p per minute and capped at £14 per hour, for the first time, EVs are accessible to all. Secondly, London's charging infrastructure remains poor. We have decided to take away this factor by taking care of the charging operation ourselves so our members don't need to worry about it. For us it's all about making EV driving as easy and appealing for Londoners as possible." 

Zipcar UK has been steadily growing its offering for London members over the past few years. This now includes Zipcar Roundtrip, available throughout the capital, whereby members can pick up a car from a Car Club bay, drive, and return the car to its original spot; and Zipcar Flex, the one-way, drive-and-drop service that launched in July 2017, and has proved popular, now operating in ten boroughs, with more in the pipeline. Zipcar's EV offering forms part of Flex, making EV car sharing a greener, cleaner solution when it comes to meeting Londoners' everyday car and transport needs.  

Hampson said, "Our figures speak for themselves: as a result of our new EV fleet, Londoners are embracing EV driving and proving that there is a real potential to make it mainstream in the capital, and help fight the city's pollution challenges."

Given the challenges that London faces in terms of congestion and air quality, the status quo around car ownership just isn't tenable, says Hampson. "Car sharing absolutely has to grow as part of a coping mechanism. While car sharing itself and the behaviour change associated with it is where the greatest benefit lies, it makes absolute sense for us to try and create this change with the cleanest possible vehicles and this is why we are committed to growing the proportion of EVs in our fleet with an aim of reaching a zero-emission fleet by 2025. We won't be able to achieve this ourselves though - we need all actors to come together, infrastructure providers, car manufacturers and the public sector, to help us make it a reality."

When asked whether the EV service will expand to other markets, Hampson said, "London is the first Zipcar market to launch EVs, and while there are no firm plans for launches elsewhere for the time being, I expect - and hope - that this success will inspire other markets."