Andrew Bates spoke with Thomas Beermann, CEO, car2go Europe, about the benefits of carsharing and how autonomous fleets could transform the future of urban mobility
How did the concept for car2go come about and has its success surprised you?
The success is not surprising for us. New mobility is a main topic in todays’ society. Our concept combines sustainable and modern lifestyle with the need for simple and cost-saving urban mobility. We really improve the quality of life in cities: Our free-floating carsharing reduces traffic and helps to improve air pollution.
What obstacles did you encounter from launch in 2008 to now being the largest carsharing company in the world?
We noticed that every city is very different. It was essential to be able to deal with different kinds of infrastructure, population and traffic behaviours. One of the most important factors for success is the political support. In order to provide the best integrated mobility solutions for cities, all partners need to work together. Also the political circumstances vary strongly from city to city.
Many authorities are attempting to reduce the number of parking spaces available in city centres. How could this affect car2go and is there dialogue occurring with local governments to encourage carsharing initiatives?
We are always in close dialogue with the cities–in cities where we are and also where we want to go. A lot of them understand our concept and cooperate with us on the idea to reduce the number of private cars in cities. A logical consequence will be that parking spaces could be freed up for other usage. That is why many cities decide to install special carsharing parking spaces to support our concept.
Could car2go be seen as a competitor to public transport and are any cities reluctant to engage because of this?
No, car2go is not a competitor to public transport. It is an additional option for the customer. Carsharing is one of many options in the urban mobility mix. Our goal is to reduce private cars in cities, as public transport does. Market research proves that there is no competition between different channels. Carsharing users also use public transport more than average citizens. A combination of different options serves the comfort of the people.
How important was it for car2go to use low-emission and electric vehicles in its fleets?
Our vision of carsharing is electric, which is why we have been investing in electromobility for over five years. We have been collecting valuable experiences and knowledge. With that knowledge we can stand by cities’ side. In our opinion, it is important to pursue this goal and consequently only completely electric fleets will make a true difference. That is why we already have three electric locations and are working on further ones. The next fully electric location will be Hamburg. Fundamental for such plans is of course the existence of a well-developed charging infrastructure.
What is the demographic of your users? How are you targeting other areas of society?
We can see a big variety in our user demographics. If we have to break it down we can say that the typical carsharing user is open minded, urban and lives a sustainable lifestyle. The main user group is from 26 to 35 years old, followed by 25 percent from 36 to 45 years old. Two-thirds are male. We take the wishes of our customers seriously and continuously optimise our offer. For example, we introduce new models to the fleet. With our Mercedes-Benz models we can also satisfy business customers and families better. Our packages serve for longer trips, so families can take a tour outside of the city easier.
What is the future for carsharing facilities in cities? How could autonomous driving affect this future?
We are convinced that the future of carsharing in cities will be autonomous. Privately-owned vehicles sit unused on average for more than 23 hours per day. An autonomous carsharing vehicle in the future will be on the move more or less around the clock. That is good news for cities and its citizens. Transport in city centres will be cleaner, cheaper and safer. car2go is ready and waiting for the autonomous future.