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How A Smart Car-Sharing Service Is Taking Vehicles Off The Road In Cities

The flexible car2go service is making it easy to give up a personal vehicle.

How A Smart Car-Sharing Service Is Taking Vehicles Off The Road In Cities

[Photo: Flickr user opengridscheduler]

Since launching in Germany in 2009, car2go has built a customer base of well over 1 million people and proved that smart cars aren't as dinky as they look. Parent company Daimler has helped create a new category of transportation—"personal transit"—that's somewhere between public transit and having your own vehicle.

And now comes evidence of car2Go's environmental benefits. A study from the Transportation Sustainability Research Center, at UC Berkeley, finds that each car2go vehicle is taking between 7 and 11 private cars off the road, with considerable pollution eliminated to boot.

The research, led by Susan Shaheen, covers five cities (Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.) and is based on a survey of 9,500 car2go drivers, as well as data from the company. It looks at the effect on personal car buying and selling decisions and how customers use the one-way "floating" service with geo-fenced areas of the cities.

The analysis finds that, while car2go trips are additional in one sense—they wouldn't have occurred without the service—the overall effect is to reduce traffic because customers are giving up their own cars as a result. Across the cities, members sold between one and three vehicles for every car2go vehicle on the street and "suppressed" four to nine vehicle purchases.

Flickr user elizaIO

In 2015, that led to 28,000 fewer cars on the road, the study says, a 6% to 16% reduction in total vehicle miles traveled, and an average greenhouse gas reduction across the cities of 10%. Many of the vehicles that members reported selling were on the older, dirtier side—the average age was 14 years.

"The results . . . suggest that car2go one-way car sharing is substantively impacting travel behavior, miles driven, GHG emissions, and the number of vehicles on urban roads within operating regions," the study says. Indeed, you could imagine that if replicated to the 30 cities where car2go operates, the cumulative advantages could be vast.

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