Is CarSharing the Next Frontier for Fleet EVs?
At the Automotive News Congress in Munich last month, an analyst from Morgan Stanley predicted that widespread integration into car-sharing fleets could be a major turning point for EV sales. “Car-sharing and [EV] technology adoption go hand in hand,” said Laura Lembke, a vice president of the bank’s automotive investment team. Lembke said that higher daily usage will soon allow car-sharing fleets to recoup the added cost of an electric drivetrain in just 2-3 years compared to a much longer period for most individual purchasers.
A number of carmakers and car-sharing companies are already racing to prepare for this trend. In June, ZipCar announced it would deploy 50 Volkswagen GTE plug-in hybrids in London. BMW’s DriveNow program already offers the i3 to drivers in at least ten cities, including Munich, Berlin, Copenhagen, London and Seattle. The carmaker says its DriveNow service has already reached profitability, just five years after its launch.
Meanwhile, General Motors and Lyft are hard at work on self-driving vehicles that will be deployed as part of a new car-sharing model in the coming years—provided governments sign off on necessary new regulations. The test program is based around integrating autonomous technology into the forthcoming Chevy Bolt, a 200-mile subcompact EV that goes on sale later this year.
Lyft could eventually be a major source of sales for GM’s electric vehicle program, but that will likely be contingent on the success of autonomous car-sharing. A pilot program is scheduled to launch in 2017.
While the small Bolt may not be ideal for drivers picking up passengers, it should be sufficiently roomy in the front seat for individual loaners. Due to a richness of high-tech features and potential for additional automation-related fuel savings, plug-ins are particularly well-suited for self-driving.
Naturally, even before autonomous fleets become a reality, any company looking to make use of them will need to study their duty cycles and other patterns of use. These sorts of feasibility studies are usually best completed in well advance of any investment, as they can inform interim vehicle purchase decisions, budgeting, and brand positioning as the technology gets closer to market.