The concept of carsharing is pretty straightforward. Instead of owning a vehicle yourself and being attached to the acquisition costs, insurance, repairs and other running costs, you just pay for a vehicle whenever you need one (c.f. mobility on demand). Depending on the provider, costs are usually calculated as a mix between mileage and time. Carsharing offers you the benefits of using a car without the strings attached to owning a car. According to an analysis by Roland Berger (2014) private cars stay idle for 23 hours every day. Thus, carsharing is an environmentally friendly way to increase the efficiency of car usage.
The number of carsharing users is continuously rising. In Germany, over 96% of big cities with more than 100,000 habitants offer carsharing. However, only 5% of municipalities with less than 20.000 habitants provide a carsharing service (Bundesverband Carsharing, 2020). Carsharing in rural areas is facing bigger challenges than in urban areas. For instance, rural areas have a higher level of car ownership and are less densely populated. Additionally, there is a great availability of parking spaces and the public transport system is not as well-developed, making it hard to get to a carsharing vehicle. However, despite these unfavorable conditions, previous research shows that residents in rural areas are just as open towards a carsharing system as their urban counterparts (Wappelhorst et al., 2014).
But, how exactly can we make carsharing work in rural areas?
This is a target research question in our Smart2Charge project. The goal is to implement an electric carsharing system in Wüstenrot, a municipality with 6,613 habitants in the southwest of Germany. In 2020, we conducted three preceding steps to get detailed insights into the needs as well as the acceptance of the habitants of Wüstenrot: a survey (n=190), qualitative interviews (n=21) and organized a workshop (n=17). In the survey and interviews, we presented to participants a station-based carsharing system with one station in the center of the municipality and two electric vehicles, using a short written paragraph. During the workshop, participants were able to modify the presented carsharing concept or develop a new one.
Here are our preliminary findings:
- Overall, 15% of the survey sample indicated high interest in the e-carsharing service. Even though this value seems low at first, it is slightly above the German national average (13%) of people being interested in carsharing (IfD Allensbach, 2019).
- The qualitative interviews revealed that the majority of respondents would like to test the electric carsharing system once it has been implemented. However, 10 out of 13 find it hard to reach and 7 out of 13 perceive it as not flexible enough.
- In the workshop, the participants created their own preferred carsharing model for Wüstenrot. The favoured carsharing model is a free-floating model that includes carsharing stations in all districts of the municipality, making the carsharing accessible to more residents. If the vehicles are not left at a designated station, a service provider should make sure the vehicles are distributed correctly. Additionally, participants suggested to include a ridesharing feature in the app, making it possible to lower the environmental impact and foster social connections in the community.
These findings are consistent with previous research. It shows that an electric carsharing in rural areas is desirable. Compared to urban carsharing, it is important that it involves a greater sense of community. Successful carsharing systems in rural areas are found in Schleswig Holstein and Spain for example.
The implementation of the carsharing in Wüstenrot will take place in the first half of 2021. Stay tuned to see how it performs.
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Bundesverband CarSharing (2020). Aktuelle Zahlen und Fakten zum CarSharing in Deutschland. Bundesverband CarSharing e.V. Available online at https://carsharing.de/alles-ueber-carsharing/carsharing-zahlen/aktuelle-zahlen-fakten-zum-carsharing-deutschland
IfD Allensbach. (2019). Anzahl der Personen in Deutschland, die Carsharing nutzen oder sich dafür interessieren, in den Jahren 2015 bis 2019 (in Millionen) [Graph]. In Statista. Zugriff am 16. Juni 2020, von https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/257867/umfrage/carsharing-interesse-und-nutzung-in-deutschland/
Roland Berger (2014, September 1). Shared Mobility – Wie neue Geschäftsmodelle die Spielregeln für den Personenverkehr ändern, Available online at https://www.presseportal.de/pm/32053/2819936
Wappelhorst, S., Sauer, M., Hinkeldein, D., Bocherding, A., Glaß, T. (2014). Potential of Electric Carsharing in Urban and Rural Areas. In Transportation Research Procedia 4, 374–386. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trpro.2014.11.028/