E-mobility and car-sharing are both often discussed in terms of environmental protection. And often enough, car-sharing itself is being criticised for not contributing to making traffic in our cities more sustainable. Not only concerning environmental impact, but also with regards to future mobility concepts. So let’s take a closer look.
Let me first give you some figures about why car-sharing – electric car-sharing or not – is indeed important for a sustainable mobility mix. When we take a look at privately-owned cars, they are parked for around 23 hours a day. This is a huge waste of resources and space, making private vehicles inefficient. In contrast, a SHARE NOW car is moved six times more, freeing up valuable parking space. Furthermore, one car-sharing vehicle replaces up to 20 privately-owned cars. This means less pollution, less congestion and freeing up valuable space that can be used differently. In Berlin for example, this accounts for more than 12,000 square metres of parking space freed up. And this concept applies for all European cities.
So if we look at the bigger picture and at mobility as a whole, car-sharing can contribute a lot to environmental protection. The German government, for example, plans to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by around 40 % by 2030. There is still a long way to go and it cannot simply be achieved by expanding local public transportation alone. That is why car-sharing has to be and is a fundamental part of the solution for the mobility of the future.
Another factor that is often missed in the discussion about how environmentally friendly car-sharing really is, is the vehicle itself. The average age of privately-owned cars registered in the European Union is 11.5 years (Statista 2019). On the contrary, car-sharing fleets are modernized regularly. This means that less eco-friendly cars are replaced by new, low-emission cars. Thus, car-sharing fleets already boast significantly lower CO2 emissions than the average cars registered in Europe – even if they are not fully electric. At SHARE NOW, 25 % of our total fleet is electric. The question is: Why not make it 100 %? Let me explain.
Electric cars come with a lot of advantages. They can be operated independently of fossil fuels and their ecological footprint in usage is much lower than that of conventional cars. However, this is only true if they are charged with “green electricity”, meaning from renewable energy sources. And this is not the case at most public charging stations. In addition, electric cars contribute to reducing noise-related emissions in cities. But there are also some challenges concerning electric mobility: Especially for their use in e-car-sharing, the charging infrastructure often still poses a major challenge.
The initial investment in charging stations is rather high and neither private car-sharing companies nor cities or municipalities have the means to stem this alone. Especially if you consider that electric vehicles themselves are still much more expensive than traditional fossil-fuelled cars. Furthermore, the existing public charging infrastructure is simply not sufficient. Car-sharing stands for flexibility. That is why we use the free-floating system, where users can rent and park a car anywhere in the home region. Given that electric cars need to be recharged at a fixed charging station, this is not so easy anymore.
Last but not least, the ecological factor of producing electric cars is still controversial. Let’s take a look at the battery, for example. There are still a lot of valuable raw materials needed such as cobalt or lithium. These are mined under sometimes questionable conditions (ecologically and socially) and the recycling of these batteries needs to be further optimized as well. So – what does this mean for car-sharing and e-car-sharing? And for mobility as a whole? When I look at the current situation, e-mobility alone cannot fully meet the needs of our users. Still, if the conditions are given, electric cars are the logical extension of the sustainable concept of car-sharing. And this is what we do already.
With the European Green Deal and the ban of new fossil-fuelled cars in the European Union by 2035, the shift towards electric mobility will be accelerated. Whether the infrastructure will be strengthened at the same pace, needs to be seen. Just to give you some facts: By 2030, a total amount of up to 280 billion euros will need to be invested in installing public and private charging points, upgrading the power grid, and building capacity for renewable energy production (ACEA 2022). This means that from now on until 2030, up to 14,000 public EV charging points need to be installed per week – compared to just 2,000 per week currently. As you can see, there is still a long way to go.
After all, I am not totally convinced of electric vehicles as the one and only solution for future mobility. In 2018, traffic was responsible for 26 % of all carbon dioxide emissions in the EU (Destatis). Thereof, passenger cars and motorcycles accounted for 62 % of carbon dioxide emissions. Given these numbers, transforming private travel is not only a challenge, it is also a huge chance. However, I simply do not believe that e-mobility alone will be able to solve all environmental problems in mobility, nor will it solve the space problem in our cities. Electric vehicles and electric car-sharing may be a good first step, but we need a real mobility transition – not only from fossil fuels to electric cars, but from private to shared. Only if we change our habits and consequently our mindset will we be able to achieve a positive impact in mobility for future generations.
My vision is an intermodal mobility that can be used by everyone, everywhere. A true shared mobility where travelling from A to B is easy, environmentally friendly and affordable. Car-sharing is an integral part of it. But also a mix of traditional cars, electric cars, e-bikes and public transport. As a global tech player, I believe that we will digitise and transform mobility worldwide. Future mobility is not created by only one of these concepts, but all of them – connected in a smart way, where each can play out its advantages.
SHARE NOW CEO
"At SHARE NOW, our goal is to improve mobility for all - especially in the city, where mobility is a key factor in the lives of city dwellers. We want to offer more flexible, safe and individual sustainable mobility."