Monday musings: car-shares, EVs and autonomous

February 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

ecar clubThe E-Car Club is to set up 20 new pay-per-use EV-sharing hubs in London/SE England this year, having received £500,000 of funding from Ignite Social Enterprise. These add to its community car-share schemes in Milton Keynes, Luton, Tower Hamlets, Oxford, at the University of Hertfordshire and Maylands Business Park in Hemel Hempstead. It has a focus on mobility for households in ‘transport poverty’ and access to low-cost (clean) transport, through partnerships with local authorities and communities; full release here.
Have to say I’m feeling rather ambivalent at the mo about the benefits of car clubs, which, it’s worth noting, are actually quite diverse beyond the one-way/fixed location divisions. While I can see the value in car-shares operating in specific settings such as the above, serving community groups to get/keep people mobile (good for individuals, good for the wider economy), or based around occupational/organisational contexts (replacing company fleets, etc), as well as in getting people into EVs or smaller/newer/cleaner cars than the old bangers they may previously have been driving, I’m concerned that in some other environments, such as general commuting/leisure/tourism – and especially in urban areas – they could actually be sustaining and encouraging car use where other (available) transport modes or solutions may be more appropriate.
I understand there’s anecdotal evidence from the Paris Autolib’ that the short-term one-way rental Bollore Bluecars may be displacing some public transport use by commuters, for example. And purely on a personal level (not suggesting for a moment that this is on a par with peer-reviewed journal articles, etc) I’ve been coming across a growing number of people who did not previously own or use a car but who joined a car club – and some of whom have since found driving so convenient/life-enhancing that they have gone on to buy their own car. Could this counter-balance the people who are selling a private car and cutting down their mileage by joining a car club? Anyone know of any research on this? There’s also a recurrent theme I’ve heard which is that, somehow, using a car club car doesn’t count as ‘driving’, as in “I don’t need a car… but I do belong to a car club”. Thoughts, debate, etc…
It’s also worth revisiting that recent quote from Fiat-Chrysler’s European chief Alfredo Altavilla on car shares – “the quickest way to get customers into our cars”. The manufacturers aren’t just investing in their own networks – DriveNow, Car2Go and soforth – so they can put a few cars on fleets; they’re seeing it as a valuable marketing and outreach tool.
Anyway, will look out for reports from the Carplus Annual Conference – 3rd April, London N1. They’re going to look into three themes: evidence-based success so far, “the potential growth of car clubs, particularly in London to meet Transport for London’s Car Lite policy and future trends in low carbon transport and whether shared mobility could be the answer to popularising electric vehicles”. Recent news from Carplus includes the addition of two EVs, with the intention of charging from nearby wind turbines, to the Moray car club; and a Nissan Leaf for Dunbar. Both funded by Transport Scotland.
  • Further into the future: simply adding autonomous tech to a private-car system doesn’t solve problems of congestion, energy use, etc, argues Ryan C Chin of MIT at Guardian Sustainable Business. But there’s an opportunity when integrating this with on-demand car-sharing… and further debate on whether this will encourage greater car use/travel (amongst other ‘nextcar’ issues) from David Levinson (U of Minnesota; walks to work) at The Transportationist (well worth a read).

  • No, mainstream EV use need not ‘crash’ the grid: research from the University of Vermont outlines a ‘packetized demand’ system, linked to smart-metering, to smooth out and distribute demand. A patent is pending. More here (thanks, @talitrigg).
  • Wow: a £4bn transport network including trains, buses, trams and tram-trains has been backed by city councillors for the Cardiff metro area and could be built by 2030, reports the BBC. The aim is to improve access into the city from the valleys, support a rise in commuters, and to reduce car-commuting. A big project with potential to really improve infrastructure and the local economy. The BBC’s citing evidence from Nottingham and Manchester which correlates investment in public transport with reduced traffic levels (sounds like stating the bleedin’ obvious, but this stuff does need to be researched/backed up with proper data).
  • Honda: discontinuing the CR-Z and Insight hybrids in Europe to prioritise “low-carbon” diesels (my inverted commas) and locally-made models. It’s been hit by the cost of importing from Japan as well as poor demand (only 318 CRZs sold last year, 462 hybrids). Are the old-school non-plug-in hybrids no longer in demand? Hardly, Toyota’s hybrid sales are booming… The Jazz Hybrid will continue for the moment.
  • Research from TU Chemnitz, using Mini E trial data: 20-25% of EV range is ‘lost’ as a psychological safety buffer, reports Thomas Franke. Rundown plus references at Green Car Congress.
  • Local Motors is to show its first digitally-printed, open-source EV in Chicago in September; more here.
  • I keep coming back to this interview with French Green MP Denis Baupin at Sustainable Mobility, talking about his new report (co-written with Senator Fabienne Keller, who also needs credit). “The mobility needs of our citizens can never be completely met by public transport or cycling, even though I’m a keen supporter of them”, he says, acknowledging that there is no one solution that will suit everyone, everywhere. Nice contrast to the many lobbyists shouting for their chosen mode who seem to fail to realise that, dammit, we’re all working on different pieces of the same jigsaw. Factionalism. Not constructive. (Rant of the day. Sorry).
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§ One Response to Monday musings: car-shares, EVs and autonomous

  • Forget the EV angle just expose the huge costs being sucked from individuals and institutions by the daft way we buy our motoring.

    I’ve not owned a car full time since 1976 – last weekend I hired one and it cost under 25p per mile to use it. It was a near new car and just right for the journey I made. There must be a staggering amount of money being trousered by those Council staff (and MP’s/Councillors etc) getting up to 65p per mile for using their own cars.

    Buying what you need for when you need it as transport is the solution that pays back handsomely. Deliveries by bike rather than van and no vehicle standing idle for 95% of the time (as most private cars do).

    EV’s do make sense in this respect – car sharing and th more intensive use of the vehicle, plus the single corporate owner with the resources and systems to maintain and recycle batteries etc makes the EV the urban car share solution for many tasks.

    A lot happening to deliver the transport portfolio approach

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