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The Real Eco-Benefits of Car Sharing


While some green enthusiasts eagerly await the uncertain arrival of autonomous vehicles and others praise the power of expensive and idealistic electric cars, there has long existed an obvious and widely available solution to environment-destroying gasoline vehicles: car sharing.

Car sharing is a type of car rental that allows members to reserve vehicles for a few hours at a much lower expense than traditional rental services. While companies like Hertz and Enterprise demand hundreds of dollars for cars rented days on end, a car-sharing user pays a monthly fee for quick access to vehicles. What’s more, car shares tend to be located throughout urban areas whereas traditional rentals are congregated at hard-to-reach locations, like airports.

Though the low expense and high convenience certainly factor into car-sharing’s advantages, it is important to note that car sharing is also exceedingly eco-friendly — perhaps even better for the environment than its sharing economy rival, ride sharing. If you are eager to ditch your personal ride for something greener, here’s why you should probably switch to a car-share program:

Less Traffic Congestion

In 2014, a study on one car-sharing service determined that each shared car available eliminated the need for seven to 11 personal vehicles. More recently, another study determined that 1 in 4 car-sharing users were determined to purchase a vehicle before signing up for the service. In nearly every city across the U.S., there is at least one car-sharing service in operation. Thus, the car-sharing industry as a whole has worked to keep thousands upon thousands of vehicles off roads.

While this news is obviously positive from an emissions standpoint — some estimates suggest that car sharing has annually prevented more than 14 tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere — it is also beneficial from a traffic perspective. With fewer cars cluttering city streets and highways, traffic becomes less intense, lowering wear and tear on the roads and allowing commuters to go to and from destinations more efficiently. Without a doubt, this is the most significant eco-benefit of car-sharing.

Lower Manufacturing Needs

As fewer people need cars, fewer cars are produced. As you might expect, car manufacturing is an energy- and resource-intensive process that negatively impacts the environment. An estimated 39,090 gallons of water are required to build one car, and that might not include tires, which require over 500 gallons of water each. Additionally, cars need steel and aluminum which are produced from destructive mining and smelting processes as well as plastic which comes from oil, a substance with notorious environmental effects. It’s easy to recognize that the fewer cars produced, the better.

Encouragement for Car Substitutes

A practical, reliable car-sharing service is dramatically less expensive than owning a car — but it isn’t free, nor is it cheaper than using alternative transportation options for most travel. In addition to a monthly payment, car-sharing users typically pay an hourly fee while they use the car, and some services also charge for fuel consumption. Thus, car sharing is typically reserved for rare trips to places otherwise unreachable by other types of transportation.

For everyday travel, most car-sharing users rely on greener car substitutes. Indeed, users report a 13 percent increase in cycling and a 19 percent increase in walking, both of which contribute virtually no greenhouse emissions and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Even amongst car-sharing users who rely on public transit, 72 percent feel more independent without a personal vehicle to lug along. It’s safe to say that users rarely regret their decision to forsake personal vehicles.

Efficiency of Change

You might occasionally need a pickup truck to move large objects around, but for everyday trips, you certainly don’t need such a large vehicle. Still, most people purchase the larger car for the infrequent convenience. Worse, vehicles purchased today will likely have obsolete technology in just a few short years, operating much more inefficiently than newer makes and models.

Car-sharing fleets are much more flexible and capable of change than personal vehicles. Not only do most fleets contain options that address several transportation needs — such as small, efficient cars and large, spacious vans and trucks — but they can adapt to changes in technology sooner than most car owners can. As a result, car-sharing fleets tend to be more fuel efficient than the average personally owned vehicle. Undoubtedly, they will likely surge even farther ahead as electric car batteries and other environmentally friendly transportation tech evolve.

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