Urgent solutions required

“Shared mobility is a specific area of urgency, considering the big role the automobile has played in the last century,” says Ananda Groag, the dedicated mobility expert at shareNL, a hub for developing the collaborative economy. “Cities were built around it. This has led to pollution, traffic, sprawl and a significant impact on public space. The mobility per person is also increasing. Shared mobility is one potential solution for these issues.”

Using what’s there

Historically, if you were in need of a car but didn’t own one, you had to get to a rental agency, usually on the fringes of town, and pay to hire one. Now there are a plethora of options, including car-sharing services like Car2Go or the peer-to-peer Dutch start-up Snappcar, which lets individuals rent out their own cars to others in the way that Airbnb links homeowners to potential guests. BlaBlaCar lets riders tag along, for a fee, in a car that’s already going in their direction. “Shared mobility is more social, more convenient and more financially attractive,” says shareNL co-founder Harmen van Sprang. “Traditional rental agencies buy new cars. We use those that are already down the street.”

Mobility startups

Amsterdam has a slew of its own mobility startups. Abel, the electric taxi service that launched in the city in 2016, lets you book a chair instead of a whole electric car via an app. The more flexible you are, including your willingness to ride with others, the lower your costs. Mobypark links up those who want to park with people who have parking places available, saving time, money and aggravation in the process. The car-sharing service ParkFlyRent lets travellers leaving from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport park their cars for free while others then rent these would-be idle autos – all backed up by insurance.

Green Carsharing Deal

ParkFlyRent, Snappcar and shareNL are three of the 42 signatories to the Green Carsharing Deal, which includes leasing and insurance companies, municipalities such as Amsterdam, mobility start-ups and environmental groups. The initiative’s short-term goal is to increase car sharing to 100,000 cars by the year 2018. Currently, only 25,000 cars out of the country’s 8,000,000 are shared. By 2025, Green Carsharing Deal wants to see 10 percent of the Dutch automotive fleet, some 800,000 vehicles, for shared use. “It’s a fraction of the market and there’s a lot of room to grow,” says shareNL’s Groag. “The mindset needs to change.”

Corporate car sharers

Traditional car manufacturers also recognise the need to move away from traditional economic models, with almost all of them having launched a mobility initiative in recent years. Cars2Go is the brainchild of Daimler AG, while Volkswagen bought a controlling stake in the Netherlands’ largest car-sharing company Greenwheels. “The traditional manufacturers need to offer their products to service,” says Groag. “The shift from owners to users impacts car sales. It’s good to move now. Car manufacturers should become tech platforms.” This “identity sharing” also helps increase brand loyalty, as today’s users could become tomorrow’s buyers.

Frontrunner in smart mobility

While that’s one potential backlash to the sharing economy, the positives, say its supporters, are overwhelming. Amsterdam recently became the first European city to announce its goal of emissions-free transport by 2025. A relatively small city with one of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country, a good public transport system and a cycling- and walking-friendly infrastructure, Amsterdam, says Groag, embraces shared mobility. “It’s important for its goals,” she says. “The city wants to be a front-runner in smart mobility.” And apparently, so do many of its inhabitants. Groag says that people who car-share use a “basket of initiatives,” from public transport to bicycles, carsharing and ridesharing services. They are also more aware of how they travel and the environmental costs of their movements.

“We all want the freedom to move,” says Groag, “but you can have that freedom without ownership.”