November 20, 2013 – Carsharing aims to complement the existing public transport system by providing on-demand and short-term access to public automobiles. Carsharing separates car use from vehicle ownership. It intends to reduce the car population in a city to prevent traffic congestion and reduce pollution. Carsharing solutions have spread in western countries where local governments see them as convenient ways to reduce parking needs in the city centers and improve overall transportation efficiency of the city. However, the concept is still very new in China.
In 2009, China became the world’s biggest auto market. By 2012, 14.7 million new cars were hitting China’s roads. This has led to a dramatic increase in the congestion and pollution problems in major cities. Municipalities, including Beijing, have adopted specific policies that limit the annual growth of private vehicle ownership and control when they can be used. There is therefore an opportunity for Chinese policy makers and researchers to further explore the potential of carsharing systems as part of the traffic congestion and pollution solution in each of China’s cities.
Welcome: Mr. Adam Mutwil, Transport Counsellor, Transport, Building and Urban Development, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Mr. Michael Glotz-Richter, Senior Project Manager ‘Sustainable Mobility’, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Senate Department for Environment, Construction, Transport and European Affairs
Dr. Li Minwei, Senior Engineer, Transport Modeling Division, Beijing Transportation Research Center
Dr. Liu Yi’an, Chief Technical Officer, China Car Clubs – Hangzhou Cherry Intelligence, Co., Ltd
Mr. Stefan Steinhauer, Car2go Representative of Daimler Mobility Services in China, Delian Limitied
Mr. Felix Somerville-Scharf, Head of New Mobility, Volkswagen New Mobility Services Investment Co., Ltd
Moderated by Mr. Christian Hochfeld, Programme Director – Sustainable Transport, GIZ
The following is an edited synthesis of the discussion. As per convention, individual’s comments are not attributed.
The automobiles on Beijing’s roads increased rapidly from 2.6 million vehicles in 2005 to 4.6 million in 2010. In response, Beijing’s municipality designed an enforceable system that limited the growth of new vehicles on Beijing’s roads to 240,000 per year. From 2014, this number will be reduced to 150,000, and a minimum of 20,000 of those will be electric vehicles. The share of electric vehicles will increase to 50,000 by 2016. A separate policy only allows cars to be driven on alternate days of the week and even less during heavy pollution events.
Among the different means of transportation in Beijing, private car usage rose from 23% in 2005 to 32.6% in 2011. This has since flattened out. Public transport usage has risen from 30% in 2005 to 44% in 2012, and the objective of the municipality is to reach 55% by 2020, mostly through the development of more subway lines. The bicycle share, however, dropped from 30% in 2005 to 14% in 2012. The municipality wants to reverse this trend and aims for 15% by 2020. This creates an imbalance between the demand for driving cars, and the supply of cars allowed to be driven in Beijing. Carsharing companies could benefit from this demand; however, they still face the same limits on new car entrants as private owners.
There are two carsharing models – the station-based model, which requires returning the car to a designated carsharing station; and, the free-floating model which allows users to pick the car up and leave it where they wish within the carsharing zone. This model requires a minimum density of available vehicles, but more easily meets the needs of users who usually don’t schedule their trips in advance.
An example of successful carsharing implementation came from the city of Bremen in Germany. 200 vehicles are available for carsharing with 50 parking stations throughout the city. The service already has 8,700 users. The city estimates that 2,000 private cars have been replaced by this solution and hopes to reach 20,000 users by 2020, which will remove 6,000 cars from the roads. In addition to the reduction in congestion and emissions, Bremen’s carsharing system also creates more parking places and the possibility to develop specific bus lanes, bike parking areas and other public spaces.
Carsharing could further drive the use of electric vehicles. While carsharing doesn’t require electric vehicles, station-based model of carsharing can help implementing a large number of charging stations in the cities. Most trips using carsharing solutions are short trips that suit the battery life of electric vehicles.
Does carsharing compete with taxis and car rental? Taxis are already one of the great transportation solutions in China. However, the demand for the younger generation to drive by themselves continues to rise. While car rental can be effective in many cases, it is often limited to half-a-day minimum hire and the vehicles need to be booking can be inconvenient. A viable solution for the transportation system requires a combination of different carsharing modes and public transport to fill types of new demand.
Is car-pooling an alternative to carsharing? More and more owners of cars use carpooling and drive together to work because it’s more convenient and cheaper for them, even if the passengers already own a car. Chinese government aims to promote carpooling in order to reduce traffic jams and improve air quality. However, officials also want to draw a clear line between car-pooling and black taxis.
Will more carsharing companies emerge in China? Companies can start with a reasonably small investment (around 20 vehicles) and the fleet can increase with demand over time. However, the main question is finding an effective parking solution in the city center. This is a sensitive question which can only be resolved with each local government.
How can the local government facilitate the implementation of carsharing solutions in China’s cities? According to the panelists, carsharing businesses do not require financial support from the government, but require policy incentives. Carsharing companies require access to park on any available public parking place, and for the company to directly pay for the parking fee directly to the municipality. Carsharing companies want carsharing to be treated as part of the public transportation system like the taxis and receive a specific license plate, and to be allowed to be used every day.
What is the incentive for the local government to promote carsharing? Carsharing can reduce the need for parking spaces in the city center which, therefore, provides space to build cycling lanes and improve the flow for public transport and emergency services.
Which Chinese city is ready to start a carsharing business? It will be difficult for Beijing to commence a carsharing program in the near future, but China has more than 160 cities each with a population of over 1 million inhabitants, each with all very unique features which could lend themselves to carsharing programs. The key is getting agreement with the local government.
While carsharing uses new fuel efficient vehicles, one of the biggest benefits on emissions reductions from carsharing comes from reducing the demand for production of more vehicles. The embodied energy through manufacturing a car can be more than half of the emissions over the car’s lifecycle.
63 representatives of government, NGOs, business and media joined GIZ and CCF to learn about Carsharing and to share perspectives.