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Car sharing

| Car club & car share, fractional ownership, sharing, sustainability | January 9, 2012

Looking back at 2011, one the biggest areas of change has been sharing cars (sharing the ownership of cars rather than the equally important lift sharing). Cars represent a huge opportunity for sharing because of the number of very expensive assets which spend the vast proportion of their time unused. Shared ownership of cars used to be relatively difficult to manage. Until recently most shared cars were in private syndicates, predominantly set up to own sports, classic or super cars.
Often the owners had found each other through car owners’ clubs. Because the cars are used infrequently, it is relatively easy to work out when the owners can use the car. The owners are also usually relatively wealthy and relieved simply to reduce the costs and responsibilities of ownership, so apportioning costs is fairly straightforward.

Car clubs like Zipcar and City Car Club have been gathering momentum for some time in the UK, USA and across Europe: the recession has definitely helped them. Car clubs bring people together around a car and manage all aspects of the shared ownership. But they generally operate in cities and suburbs. There are small car clubs in towns and rural areas, but few survive long.

A different model was required if car sharing was to hit the mainstream and I believe this has recently emerged with peer-to-peer rental. This allows people to advertise their car for hire by the hour, day or month. Like ebay, Couchsurfing and many collaborative consumption services, these systems depend upon reviews to develop the necessary trust systems. The owner reviews how well the renter looks after the car: cleanliness, tidiness, petrol as agreed, timeliness of return. Similarly the renter reviews the owner: was the car as advertised, clean, tidy, available etc.

RelayRides in the USA and WhipCar in the UK have forged the peer-to-peer car sharing way forward. In the USA, RelayRides led a change in the law in California to enable peer-to-peer rental: previous laws classified it as normal car hire and effectively made it impossible. HiGear is also pioneering peer-to-peer rental of luxury cars in the USA.

Finally the major car manufacturers are now getting involved. They probably hoped they wouldn’t have to, but they realise that car sharing may become mainstream and if they aren’t part of it, they will suffer. They also know that a shared car is often a person’s first car and they will be looking to hook them to their brand for life. Daimler has a new electric car club called car2go; Ford supplies many cars to Zipcar; BMW and Sixt car rental have created DriveNow car club (German); and Renault supplies Hertz On Demand (a hybrid of car hire and car club).

For more about sharing cars.

2011: my sharing year

| collaborative consumption, sharing, sustainability | January 4, 2012

Sharing, or “Collaborative Consumption” as it is often now called, really started to gain traction in 2011. I started yours2share in 2006 and frankly most people thought I was insane. Now I hear about new sharing related websites daily and it seems like all my friends and relations are busy Couchsurfing, AirBnB-ing, freecycling, car clubbing, co-working etc. If you want to know more about Collaborative Consumption, I highly recommend Rachel Botsman and Roo Roger’s book “What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live

I am now heavily involved in several other areas of collaborative consumption as well as yours2share. I run a co-working group Norwich Jelly which enables homeworkers, freelancers, self employed and anyone working on their own to co-work together once a month in Norwich, Norfolk. This is part of an international network of Jellys. Most people, like me, work on their own from home, but we’ve seen an increase in professional people with full time jobs based entirely home. Everyone appreciates a day when they can interact with people, laugh a little and share ideas, hints and tips.

I’ve also helped to set up a LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) in the Chet Valley, my local area of Norfolk, which enables local people to trade goods and services for a local “virtual” currency. Our system is still very new, but I’m encouraged at the enthusiasm with which it has been greeted so far.

Finally, we’ve had a few more couchsurfing visitors and they’ve all been a pleasure to have staying with us. We are planning trips to Berlin and to Italy next year and I’m hoping to surf a few couches whilst we are there!

And on that note, I’ll wish a healthy, happy and collaborative New Year.


In transition: Rob Hopkins

| collaborative consumption, environment, sharing, sustainability | November 16, 2011

Last night I went to Transition Norwich’s third birthday celebration to hear Rob Hopkins of the Transition Network speak.  He’s a very good speaker and the messages were clear:

  • Sustainability makes sense, however you look at the future
  • Work towards sustainabiity and resilience improves
  • The route to sustainability is different for each community
  • The best way to work out how to make it work is to try things out and find out what works for your community
  • There are many aspects to sustainability: reducing energy use, local food, local currencies, community building, developing skills, co-housing

Rob Hopkins has written several books about transition towns and how to start, the latest is The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times .  I’m waiting for my copy to arrive, I’ll review it here in a week or two.

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