Europe-wide, carsharing company SHARE NOW takes a disruptive approach to urban mobility . With a bold mission to make city driving both more affordable and more eco-friendly, word is spreading fast.
Cars have long been held as a great symbol of personal freedom, yet pinpointing their golden age usually arouses contrasting opinions. Some enthusiasts go back to the 1920s and 30s, when the privately-owned motor car was still a luxury and roads were blissfully uncrowded, while others speak of the advent of mass ownership in the 50s and 60s. There are other views too, yet one thing unites these contrasting opinions – according to almost every commentator out there, the halcyon days of the motor car are behind us.
Increased urbanisation, horrific levels of traffic, and associated environmental concerns have led a growing number of city dwellers to abandon car ownership altogether. As manufacturers bring ever more hybrid, low-emission, or zero-emission vehicles to market, people are asking if it’s necessary to own a car in the 21st century, especially in cities. This is where Berlin-based car-sharing company SHARE NOW comes in.
“Carsharing is a true alternative for people in the city, who don’t want to own a car,” explains SHARE NOW CEO Olivier Reppert. “It combines flexibility with individuality, while at the same time freeing up valuable urban space.” Sustainability concerns are also baked-in to the company’s vision. “We help to relieve cities from Co2 emissions, congestion and parking pressure,” says Olivier. “Because electric mobility is a focal element of our strategy.”
Olivier was appointed CEO of SHARE NOW when it was created in 2019 following the merger of two pre-existing companies, car2go and DriveNow. Having worked previously as head of sales and marketing for Smart, the subcompact vehicle manufactured and sold by Daimler, he was well positioned to grapple with the issues of city driving. The entire market positioning of smart, the world’s most popular brand of microcar, was conceived to address urban overcrowding. Unsurprisingly, Smarts are now a staple of the SHARE NOW fleet, alongside Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, MINI, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW models.
“The Smart is really a perfect urban car,” Olivier says. “Especially once the decision was taken, in 2015, to make them electric. However, for me, this was not yet a complete solution.”
Olivier identified that even if all cars in a given city were fully electric, while environmental impacts would be mitigated to some degree, overcrowding would not. The need to park hundreds of thousands of vehicles could not be accommodated while urban space remained at such a premium.
“Most cars are parked more than 95% of the time,” the CEO explains. “People drive them to work, park them, then drive them home and park them again. This is simply not a very efficient system.”
The acknowledgement of this problem became his main motivation in his new role. He saw how changing times and sensibilities had created an opportunity. The goal from there was to convince others that carsharing had to be the way forward. It quickly became apparent that there were some barriers to achieving this.
With this in mind, SHARE NOW was developed with flexibility and modern, hand-held connectivity at its core. Not only does the company offer a range of vehicles but the rental period can be tailored to suit the customer. Everything from a few minutes to 30 days can be arranged, quickly and easily using the SHARE NOW app. Rates are based either on minutes, hours, or days. Fuel, insurance, and parking costs within the home area are included in the price.
The company’s simple and straightforward solution to a widespread problem enjoys great popularity throughout Europe. Since its inception in 2019 the usage of SHARE NOW has grown smoothly, overriding a downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic during the first part of 2020. Faced with plummeting usage, the company responded to lockdown by increasing hygiene and disinfection vigilance. It also launched the “CARE NOW” programme, offering 30-day packages to essential workers and medical staff at greatly reduced rates.
This sort of agile thinking saw the demand rebound quickly. SHARE NOW is available in 16 cities across eight countries with a fleet of 11,000 vehicles, 25 percent of which are electric. Yet like any forward-thinking CEO, Olivier is not prepared to rest on his laurels. “Our app including backend services, business development and analysis are done in-house,” he explains. “In this way, we can keep on top of the whole eco-system of carsharing. This helps us to map out the future.”
Plans are already afoot to grow the company further. Innovation lies at the heart of the company’s success and all new SHARE NOW employees complete an innovation challenge on their first day. Ideas brainstormed by newcomers are then handed to the software development team to see if they take root. As a result of this fully embedded culture, the company now intends to offer its tech and virtual interface to external, franchise partners, a venture that would not only be profitable but would enable the carsharing model to spread even further.
Alongside all of this, keyless, Bluetooth entry for cars is on the way, increasing security and convenience. The possibilities are almost endless. “It is important to recognise that the love for the car is still there. In a car you have freedom, flexibility, and a private space. It is a beautiful product that can meanwhile be built and used sustainably.”
As technology continues to develop, Olivier has no doubt that carsharing, as a new relationship between human beings and cars, will continue to evolve in exciting ways. “We may soon have access to autonomous vehicles, for example,” he says. “These can come to you when you need them. You will just order them, then they are there at your door. These sorts of possibilities are looking more and more like probabilities now. It is clear to me that this is the future. When it comes to cars, but also in general, we believe in sharing more and owning less to make our cities more liveable.”
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