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Sharing the steering wheel

The Local · 6 Apr 2010, 17:14

Published: 06 Apr 2010 17:14 GMT+02:00

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Faced with a daily commute from Heidelberg to Bensheim, Ana Isabel Eichel opted for culture over a larger carbon footprint.

Although the young employee of a communications consulting company prefers city living, Eichel still wanted access to a car so that she could enjoy hikes in the nearby woods and have the ability to transport a piece of furniture or a large amount of groceries on occasion.

But she calculated it would cost her roughly €400 to €500 a month to own and operate her own car, leading her to spend a bit more on an apartment that was close to the city centre and join a car-sharing scheme. By doing so, she now lives within walking or biking distance to the Heidelberg’s cultural offerings while helping eliminate the carbon emissions from her 70-kilometre commute.

Germany’s well-developed urban public transport networks are enabling more people like Eichel to make car sharing a permanent part of their personal mobility.

“We are working to gain access to more parking spaces in central locations to meet the growing demand for car sharing,” Willi Loose, the head of the Federal Association of Car Sharing, told The Local.

According to his umbrella organisation, some 150,000 people in Germany belong to car-sharing programmes that make 4,500 vehicles available for short-term rentals, such as one hour or one day. Such types of car hire usual require membership, and hourly fees cover petrol costs, a certain number of kilometers and insurance. Drivers have the benefit of easy access to a car without bearing the cost for owning, parking and repairing the vehicle.

Loose says car sharing could be of interest up to two million people in Germany, if the numbers in neighbouring Switzerland are any indication. The small Alpine country was one of the first places to experiment with car sharing, and it remains quite popular there.

But a lack of parking spaces in major German city centres is holding back the expansion of car sharing, Loose believes. In addition, Loose says car sharing is not on the agenda for most politicians: “They give lip service to the idea but don’t do much more.”

Still, that's not slowing the ever growing number of car-sharing offerings.

Some of the larger operators include Stadtmobil in Berlin, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Hannover and Frankfurt, as well as several other locations; cambio CarSharing in Aachen, Berlin, Bielefeld, Bremen, Hamburg and Cologne; Greenwheels in Berlin, Braunschweig, Chemnitz, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Jena, Nuremberg and Rostock; and Deutsche Bahn’s subsidiary DB Carsharing, available in about 100 cities across the country.

Originally designed for individuals, many companies are also using specially designed car-sharing services as well. According to Loose, some 25 percent of car sharing is now for business.

Veteran user Eichel revealed a few tips to The Local about how to make car sharing work best. She recommends booking early, even though car-sharing services are typically designed so that drivers order cars at the spur of the moment for short trips.

There’s never a guarantee that a car will be available when a driver wants it, but Eichel has never once gone without when she wanted one.

Often, members book online and can easily reserve vehicles with a few clicks of the mouse 24-hours a day. Eichel uses the Stadtmobil website to book cars at any of the three vehicle stations that are close to her home. She chooses the station based on where she’s headed and which cars are available.

Story continues below…

In addition, drivers should be wary that it’s easy to underestimate the time you’ll need a vehicle. To keep yourself from having to watch the clock when you’re out with a car, book the vehicle one hour longer than you expect to need it.

“Although you pay by the hour, you shouldn’t always worry if you’re paying a few euros more or less,” said Eichel. “You’re saving anyway compared to the cost of owning a car.”

If you are interested in car sharing, the best way to select a service provider is to scout for parking spaces close to the place you’ll be renting from, such as your home. Also be sure to see what types of vehicles various companies offer close by.

And if there’s no station where you need one, don’t be shy about asking a car-sharing company to set one up. Being proactive is the best way to drive growing demand for car sharing.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:09 April 6, 2010 by Deviate
If these "shared' cars are PT Cruisers as pictured, I think I'd rather walk barefooted through broken glass than drive.
17:51 April 6, 2010 by Small Town Boy
@Deviate: They use all types and makes of car. There is always a choice of large or small cars depending on your needs, as well as accessories such as trailers, roof racks, child seats, etc.
18:44 April 6, 2010 by Deviate
@Small Town Boy: I figured. Just saw the PT Cruiser dash, thought to myself "God, what a horrible car" and had to be a smartass about it.
12:31 April 7, 2010 by siempre02
I would like to know what are the websites for the car sharing? Can someone please post or recommend what sites offer this? I need one for 3 hrs to go from Wiesbaden to Nurnberg Airport...would really appreciate any info.
22:35 April 7, 2010 by danamcmahon
it just might be a great idea in the united states except we have a speeding problem here, housing, and crime. Was not for that I would be sold on it.
14:39 April 8, 2010 by LMB222
Car sharing is not the answer to owning a car, because you have to specify when you return the vehicle. The per-hour price isn't that favorable to allow for a comfortable overbooking.

I used to own a car, and tested the public transport for a year. The statement that it is "well-developed" is a cliche. There are just minimal services on Sundays, and it's expensive. Moreover, shopping without a car in the ServiceWuste Deutschland is a nightmare.

So I'm getting back to the car. Will still take the bus or walk to work, because it's 3km.
09:47 April 9, 2010 by wizzbangg
How is one to evaluate car sharing intellegently, without some kind of analysis of the costs of several of the current plans?

What costs of ownership are you calculating as compared against car sharing, and how much use of the available cars are you assuming for your cost estimates?

I am getting very worn out with articles that tease the reader into expecting more information, and then don't even get close to providing the kind of information at the level that one would consider even basic and introductory.

I don't need my information dumbed down thank you very much please.
14:37 April 9, 2010 by So36
Well Mr. Smartypants, if you don't need it "dumbed down" then it sounds like you can do the cost-benefit analysis yourself.
08:44 April 10, 2010 by ebermannstadt
The cost of car ownership is always quoted based on the cost of running a new car. An alternative, which is in reality what most people do, is to run an older car. If you only need a car occasionally then an older car may only cost you €100 - €200 / month.
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