How are car clubs a decarbonisation solution

Blog Post
21 September 2022

Over 300 local and combined authorities have declared a climate emergency. As part of their net zero targets, they are looking to decarbonise transport by offering more sustainable transport options. These can improve air quality, reduce congestion and, ultimately, lower carbon emissions.

Keep reading to see how local authorities could benefit from implementing car clubs into their net zero transport strategy.

What are car clubs?

Car clubs are short-term car rental services that give people access to local vehicles on a pay-as-you-go term. Using a car club is a great alternative to owning a private car. It’s also an alternative method for sustainable transport and when public transport or active travel may not be an option.

They offer a solution for traffic or parking congestion and encourage more people to reconsider private cars in exchange for short-term practical travel.

In 2021, CoMoUK reported that there were 450,231 active car club members in the United Kingdom, which was a 96% increase over a 12-month period.

How is this relevant to local authorities?

Energy Saving Trust is working with Department for Transport to provide useful advice to local authorities to help them achieve their transport decarbonisation and net zero emission targets.

Local authorities can support the roll out of car clubs through policies and interventions as part of their local transport strategies. For example, by including them in local chargepoint plans and site allocations, and implementing dedicated car club bays.

Lancaster City Council implemented electric vehicle car clubs with Co-Wheels to expand its EV fleet, investing in six EVs and using the city’s existing EV infrastructure to improve the accessibility of driving an EV in the city.

What types of car clubs are there and how do they work?

There are three broad categories of car clubs:

  • commercial car clubs (run by commercial operators with a membership fee)
  • community car clubs (run by local groups)
  • peer to peer car sharing platforms (allowing private individuals to rent out their vehicles to users).

These can operate in three different ways: back to base, one-way and geofenced.

  • Back to basics
    Users pick up a vehicle from a dedicated bay and drop it off in the same place after they’ve used it.
  • One-way
    Users pick up a vehicle within a defined zone, and they can drop it off somewhere else within that zone. For example, the Zipcar flex option.
  • Geofenced
    A geofence area includes particular roads, and vehicles can only be dropped off within those areas. Ubeeqo explains more.

Each option can benefit car club users differently and can be used for a variety of trips, including longer journeys, one-way and shorter round trips.

The benefits of car clubs

These car club options can provide a good alternative to those who may need or want to use a car occasionally without the cost of owning, insuring, taxing and storing one.

For users:

  • Cheaper than owning a car – 73% of respondents agreed that car club membership saved them money compared to owning a car.
  • The average car club vehicle is newer and more fuel efficient than the average UK privately owned car.
  • Good for occasional car users or for those who make irregular short trips. Using a car club can also replace having a second car.
  • No worries about finding or paying for parking spaces (especially in back to base models).

For local authorities:

  • Relieves parking pressure in cities by reducing the need for private parking bays when switching to a car club model.
  • Supports net zero ambitions for the local area (particularly EV car clubs).
  • Increases vehicle occupancy.
  • Can reduce parking needs in new developments if done properly.
  • Can help fill gaps in public transport provision that other services can’t fill, particularly in rural areas.
  • Can reduce gray fleet carbon emissions, where personal cars are used for business purposes (if a car club is used as a council pool vehicle instead).

For the environment:

  • One car club car can remove up to 20 older and privately owned cars from the road.
  • Air quality improvements due to less traffic and more efficient vehicles on the roads.
  • Lower carbon emissions, approximately 27% less CO2 emissions for a car club car than the average UK car. All car club cars are under five years old, so they’re compliant with low emission zones. Approximately 12% are electric compared to 1% of private cars. Enterprise runs an extensive list of EV cars, you can find out more here.
  • Supports shift towards lower carbon travel by placing a direct cost on car use. Users are more likely to choose another mode of transport and to try different methods like car clubs.

Challenges

  • A low uptake of car clubs can lead to cars not being used as much.
  • Lack of access to specific car club parking bays within an area to support the rollout.
  • Challenge from residents who don’t want to lose parking spaces to car club vehicles.
  • Lack of access to EV charging infrastructure (for EV car clubs). There are some schemes that can assist with this accessibility, such as the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme and the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure scheme.

Key takeaways

Car clubs are a great alternative for sustainable transport methods where active travel and public transport aren’t possible.

Local authorities can support this uptake and can implement strategies for electric vehicle (EV) car clubs into their net zero emission plans. They can do this by rolling out designated EV car club parking bays and supporting EV charging infrastructure to make them more accessible.

Currently, 12% of car club cars are electric. This figure is increasing with demand, and 85% of members were satisfied with driving an electric car club vehicle, although improvements with the support around this uptake, such as charging accessibility, could be improved.

Last updated: 21 September 2022

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