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Carsharing – One Share = 32 New Cars

ZipCars - United States' Largest Carsharing Company
ZipCars – United States’ Largest Carsharing Company

Carsharing is a great idea for reducing emissions, congestion, and personal expenses, but not everyone sees it that way.

First, what makes carsharing such a great idea? In a city, such as New York, New York, or San Francisco, California, a personal parking space is just shy of unattainable, monthly parking fees are just shy of organ donation, and congestion really doesn’t make personal automobile travel all that convenient.

On the other hand, there are times when you might need to get out of town, but those times are so few that it doesn’t really make sense to buy a car. Carsharing gives you access to a car when you need it, and frees you of the extra expense of car payments, insurance payments, and parking fees associated with a personal vehicle.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what makes carsharing a bad idea, at least for automakers? According to ZipCar, the biggest carsharing service in the United States, each “ZipCar takes 15 personally-owned vehicles off the road.” A recent study by AlixPartners asserts that “carsharing… appears to be displacing vehicle purchases at a rate of 32 to 1 (one car-sharing fleet vehicle displacing 32 vehicles that would have otherwise been purchased),” and that, by 2020, carsharing will keep an additional 1.2 million vehicles off the road.”

To sum it all up for the automakers, AlixPartners goes on to say, “the auto industry ignores or minimizes this trend at its peril.” Personally, I don’t see any downside to the increasing trend of carsharing in urban areas. True, automakers might be missing out on 1.2 million units, or more, over the next five years, but that’s a small percentage of their total volume.

What 1.2 million fewer vehicles really means is 1.2 million vehicles’ worth of emissions eliminated and 1.2 million vehicles that don’t have to be manufactured, further reducing emissions and energy expenditures. Perhaps automakers can take the time and money saved to focus on improving their technology to meet the 2020 EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) emissions regulations, which would require CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) of about 54.5 mpg (miles per gallon). Admittedly, we’re a little behind on that target.

Photo credit: akseabird Foter CC BY-NC

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