Shared cars free up more space for living

Anna Bartels
Anna Bartels · 7. oktober 2022

From the article in Ingeniøren/MobilityTech by CCO Jeanette Søby.  

The Danish Road Directorate is currently focusing on the benefits of car sharing. Sharing economy with mobility as a priority. This is not a new phenomenon. But it is an approach to transport that has never been more relevant than it is right now.

Mobility and freedom of movement are inherent parts of human life and a fundamental condition for the flexibility and efficiency that characterise our society. The transport sector is therefore of great socio-economic importance for the development of society. At the same time, it contributes to almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of air pollution. Mobility in a sharing economy perspective therefore plays a role in balancing these aspects in the sustainable society of the future.  

The “sharing economy” is a concept that inspires people all over the world: not only the first proponents of a resource-saving lifestyle back in the 1960s, but also very much among Millennials and Generation Z, economists, entrepreneurs and established businesses today. We are all increasingly using services provided by the sharing economy, including streaming media such as Netflix, accommodation such as at Airbnb and peer2peer car sharing platforms such as at GoMore.

At its core, the sharing economy is about the way we consume products and services rather than the ownership of them. For many years after the economic boom that took place in Europe in the wake of World War II, it was not only normal to own products or use services exclusively. Ownership was also seen as an important status symbol and a way of identifying oneself.  

Car sharing has shifted gears
However, there has been a paradigm shift underway in recent years. With an ever-increasing focus on sustainable consumption patterns, more and more people are recognising the benefits of sharing services and consumer goods. Most recently, soaring energy prices across Europe have underlined not only the recognition of, but also the need to see car sharing as one out of many important keys to a more energy stable society.  

Thanks to the variety of car-sharing platforms available, it is increasingly likely that there will always be a suitable means of transport available to meet the needs of everyday life. At the same time, having one’s own car is becoming less and less attractive, partly because of the high cost, time and effort involved:

  • Annual car tax and insurance
  • A fixed parking space or garage
  • Cost of servicing and maintenance
  • Car services and repairs
  • Selling the car and buying a new one

This is where the use of a shared car comes into play as a more convenient and profitable alternative. However, it’s not just a question of convenience and profitability. The desire for a more sustainable relationship with our planet is also ensuring growth in shared mobility. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2021, 63% of respondents considered a reduction in private transport based on fossil fuels to be desirable (e.g. via car sharing and/or increased home working).

Do cars have a future in cities?
How can we improve our cities in an environmentally friendly way that also takes into account our mobility needs? With an ever-growing urban population, continuous rethinking of the way we design urban areas and the way we transport ourselves are two cardinal points in the development of future cities.

In Denmark, cars are stationary 96% of the time, and when they are in use there are only 1.3 people in the car. In Germany, 90% of business-related trips by car carry only one person, showing how inefficient mobility has been so far. This is also one of the main causes of traffic congestion and an average speed of about 20 km/h in German cities.

Many municipalities have recognised this problem and are developing initiatives and regulations to make (sub)urban areas less attractive for cars. City centres are becoming car-free or subject to congestion charges. Bilbao, Brussels and Paris have introduced a 30 km/h speed limit throughout the city, while Paris is also reducing the number of on-street parking spaces by 50%.

Forget car-centric cities. Instead, let’s prioritise people, green spaces and modes of transport based on the need to build communities that are connected and resilient to energy crises and climate change. Mobility should be a priority interaction of different transport options, which together aim to meet the specific needs that arise. By optimising the use of the cars we already have, by sharing them, we can halve the number of cars in cities and free up space for other modes of transport and above all – space for life.