It all started with a young man standing helplessly by his car in the middle of the car park of a Swedish furniture store. While doing his shopping he had overestimated how much space there was in his boot. The inevitable consequence was that his car was hopelessly overfilled. He almost had to take a box back to the checkout. This experience left a lasting impression – and gave the young man, Gabriel Selbach, an idea: would it be possible for a smartphone to work out how many of the items that you were buying would fit in your car?
Together with Sebastian Thiemt and Toni Hoang, Gabriel Selbach set about putting flesh on the bones of his brainwave. The three young entrepreneurs then presented their idea at the inaugural DigitalLife Day in 2015 – and promptly won the competition for internal Daimler start-ups. They walked away with a development budget of €25,000, which they used to programme an initial prototype of the app. The trio were then given the opportunity to present this in various areas of the Group. “The candidate that first came to mind was Mercedes-Benz Vans,” explains Sebastian Thiemt. “But smart were even quicker in getting back to us with a really positive response.”
App available since early September 2016
When smart came on board, the three creators of the app were given an additional development budget. The app was quickly reprogrammed to cater to the current smart model range – and the customers of the practical sub-compact family car are already feeling the benefit. The finished app has officially been available since 2 September 2016 in the Apple App Store. Its Android equivalent was released in the Play Store just a few weeks ago.
“Right from the beginning we wanted the app to be a reliable everyday companion that people would actually use,” says Gabriel Selbach, outlining the team’s aspiration. The “pactris” process can be broken down into several steps. You first need to tell the app what items you want to pack into your car by using the smartphone camera. To do this, you scan the barcodes, which of course are found on almost every product in flat-pack furniture stores and DIY shops. The app then uses the unique product number to search for the dimensions of the box which you wish to load.
A database containing all the thousands of products that are available today would be too big to be stored on the app itself. So instead, a web crawler trawls the internet for the data that is hidden behind the scanned barcode. It almost always returns a hit. The app can work out from the dimensions of the box in which the item is packed whether it will fit into the car or not.
Providing real-time support for the post-shop packing of the car is by far the app’s most difficult job. “We spent most of our time developing the algorithm for the optimum packing sequence,” reports Sebastian Thiemt, who is currently the main person in charge of the pactris project.
Sebastian Thiemt, Developer of the pactris app
So no one gets left behind in the car park
Although there are some existing programmes that show you how to pack objects to save as much space as possible, they often fail to meet the requirements of everyday use. And, of course, the box containing your furniture doesn’t just have to fit inside the car, it also has to get through the tailgate. In the case of the smart forfour model, the app also takes into account the individually folding rear bench seat backrests and cushions. The app also asks how many passengers are travelling to make sure that no one has to stay behind in the car park.
The three young developers also thought about products whose dimensions have not yet found their way onto the internet: crates of beer or drinks are also stored in the app, as are removal boxes and the shopping crates used by the larger supermarket chains. The dimensions of other objects can simply be entered manually.
The optimum loading sequence is shown in a 3D view that displays the selected smart model and the items that need to be packed. “To make it look as aesthetically pleasing as possible, we got help from the smart design department,” explains Sebastian Thiemt. “It was interesting trying to find a good compromise between the most realistic depiction and the available computing power on the smartphone.”
Other possible uses
Taking a longer-term view, it’s not just smart customers who will benefit from the app. Customers of Mercedes-Benz will also one day discover pactris – potentially even via an interface with the Mercedes me app.
Until that day arrives, the pactris developers are working on new fields of application for their load compartment Tetris app. And in Daimler’s plant logistics, the team have found a suitable candidate: “Every day, huge numbers of goods are packed and unpacked here in a precisely coordinated process,” says Sebastian Thiemt. “A pro-version of our app could help, for example, to optimise the loading and unloading sequence.”
For more efficient logistics
The major benefit of using the app in plant logistics would be that all the specifications of all loading containers, including their dimensions, are already recorded in the IT system. Cages have standardised dimensions, and the loading spaces of trucks and vans generally have a practical rectangular footprint. This is where pactris would come in: the app could track and optimise the route taken by an individual part from the moment it arrives at the works gate to its delivery to the assembly line. Time wasted switching from one container to another would be almost completely eliminated thanks to the digital loading assistant.
Steffen Kaup, Head of the Transport and Logistics Future Research team in Daimler’s Group Research unit
“The pactris app could play a key role in future transport and logistics concepts,” predicts Steffen Kaup, Head of the Transport and Logistics Future Research team in Daimler’s Group Research unit. “One of the bigger trends in the transportation of goods will be the breakdown of goods into smaller units. These can then navigate an existing traffic network using different transport modes, which is also known as synchromodal transport. The pactris app may prove itself to be a useful component for the overall concept for this type of transport.” For such a system to work, it is vital to not only efficiently access the loading spaces of the various modes of transport, but to have information on how much space all of the items to be loaded take up.
Steffen Kaup sees the ever-increasing demands on e-commerce as one of the greater trends. Households are having more goods delivered home and requirements with regard to speed of delivery and reduction of waiting times are on the increase. Crowd-delivery services are designed to combat these trends, i. e. a lot of smaller delivery services or even private persons who support goods transportation in city centres. These could also be seen as a future area of application for pactris as these services don’t just deliver goods on their route through inner-city areas, but they also take other packages on board.
It’s clear that the growing connectedness of our world is creating whole new possibilities in the field of logistics. The three pactris pioneers weren’t even thinking of that when they first came up with their idea – but in the end the new app is not just helping owners of smart vehicles on their shopping trips, it will potentially also make logistics more efficient both in and outside the factory gates.
Steffen Kaup, Head of the Transport and Logistics Future Research team in Daimler’s Group Research unit
MR LESNIK, IT’S NOT JUST TECHNICIANS WHO ARE FINDING THAT ELECTROMOBILITY POSES NEW PROBLEMS. DESIGNERS ARE ALSO BEING FORCED TO ADAPT. WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC CHALLENGES VEHICLE DESIGNERS ARE FACING?
Robert Lesnik: I prefer to see them less as challenges and more as new opportunities. For those models that come in a combustion and an electric version, there were no great visible changes. They just lost their drive train, up to and including the exhaust. But if we don’t even have a combustion model in the first place, all sorts of entirely new possibilities open up, and we are able to work with entirely new proportions. Of course those still need to be well balanced and attractive, so that our cars continue to evoke desire. We call that “purpose design” which means design based on the intended use.
AND A DISTINCT “ELECTRO LOOK” WILL HELP WITH THAT?
It’s our opinion that the time is ripe for electronic vehicles to have their own design characteristics, and that it’s ok for a new electro look that differentiates itself formally from a combustion vehicle. With our Concept EQ we deliberately chose a different design for the front, the rear and the window layouts, creating a new formal unit. We call this “signature graphics”, and our aim is to create an entirely new impression. On top of that, all elements should appear flush and aerodynamic. That means smaller recesses and reduced stepping. Everything blends seamlessly together, like in aircraft design.
Robert Lesnik, Director Exterior Design at Mercedes-Benz
WILL CAR BUYERS HAVE TO GET USED TO A NEW DESIGN IDIOM?
If you deliberately choose to design differently, you can opt for purpose design, as we have done with the EQ architecture. But one thing is clear, in the end the vehicle still has to be recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz. The new models of the EQ product brand must remain emotional and intelligent. That is the contrast at the heart of our design. It’s ok if unexpected and surprising things happen along the way, but they must always fit into our design philosophy.
HOW WILL THE ELECTRO-DESIGN DIFFER FROM THE DESIGN IDIOM OF THE CONVENTIONALLY POWERED MODELS? AFTER ALL, COMBUSTION VEHICLES ARE GOING TO BE ON OUR ROADS FOR QUITE SOME TIME YET.
For combustion vehicles, a lot depends on the engine position, with an correspondingly long bonnet. If you can do away with the engine, then you can say goodbye to the old familiar look in this respect. And that’s what we are going to do. The new EQ variants will be designed in collaboration with the various design departments.
WHAT CREATIVE FREEDOMS DOES THE NEW TECHNOLOGY BRING?
By getting rid of the combustion engine and other components, such as transmission, exhaust and radiator, we are gaining additional space that will benefit the passengers. As designers we are very happy to take advantage of this opportunity.
HOW DO YOU BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN TRADITIONAL DESIGN AND THE NEW FORMS OF ELECTROMOBILITY?
The two types of design are going to coexist for quite a while. The first vehicle from the EQ family will arrive in 2019, and by 2025 we will have at least ten completely electronic models on the market. Both body shapes will follow the principles of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy, with the EQ models distinguished by some unique design elements. This includes the design of the front, which will create a unique, individual character. We have already presented some of the elements in Paris, such as the slot in the cowl for the windscreen wipers that only opens when the wipers are needed. This allows us to make significant improvements, both to the aerodynamics and above all to the aeroacoustics. Because without the traditional engine noise other sources of noise suddenly become a lot more noticeable.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO TRANSFER THE FACE OF THE BRAND TO THE NEW DRIVE TECHNOLOGY SO THAT AN E-MERCEDES IS IMMEDIATELY RECOGNISABLE AS A MERCEDES-BENZ?
With all of our vehicles we will be concentrating on the proportions – the lines will be smoother. The face of the brand remains the same for both types of drive technology, but that does not rule out variations. Even today, we are already the only brand with different front sections. We’ve got the traditional three-pointed star on the bonnet, the star in the centre of the radiator grille, and the sporty face of the AMG. And now we’re adding another variation, the face of the EQ, where the technology allows us a wide range of design options. But it must always remain possible to recognise a Mercedes-Benz as such from a distance.
ARE THESE NEW PROPORTIONS BEING DISCUSSED WITH THE DESIGNERS OF THE CONVENTIONAL MODELS?
Our design teams are already working on different model series across the board. And of course there is some discussion, and everyone knows all the model series. There needs to be a strategic plan to ensure that everything fits together at the end, when the cars are on display at the dealership. It has to be completely obvious that they all belong to the same family and brand, and this applies just as much to the new EQ models.
THE SHAPE OF THE CURRENT CONCEPT EQ IS THAT OF AN SUV. WILL THIS BE FOLLOWED BY MODELS IN OTHER FORMATS?
The term SUV is generally associated with large, heavy vehicles with a relatively upright greenhouse. I prefer to speak of a crossover, i. e. a model which is positioned in between the familiar segments and proportions. The appearance of our Concept EQ is less bulky, but it has the advantage of the higher seat position of an SUV. The roof is flatter, but it still provides a lot of headroom. At the rear we don’t have the typical SUV look, but rather a touch of shooting brake, to improve the aerodynamics. We have chosen this shape deliberately, because it is contemporary.
FINALLY A GLIMPSE AHEAD: WHERE IS EV DESIGN GOING IN THE FUTURE?
For the moment we are working on this first generation, and that will turn a few heads, as people may not have been expecting that from us. We have lots of ideas. For example, when we’re talking about autonomous driving, it raises the question of whether we want to carry that through to the outside. We are certainly looking forward to the new possibilities.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE NEW GENERATION OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES FOR YOU AS A VEHICLE ARCHITECT?
Jürgen Schenk: When it comes to electric drive systems, particular consideration needs to be given to these new areas: range, fuel consumption, the efficiency of the electric systems and credible charging times. The vehicle’s range is calculated from the volume of energy stored in the battery and how much of it has to be consumed in order to complete the journey. This means designing drive systems which can perform with an appropriate level of efficiency. Optimising the energy consumption of the electrical accessories is also essential.
Because the vehicle’s overall design is one of the most important features, we need to optimise the installation spaces and make the electric engine sufficiently compact for it to be accommodated within the axle. At the same time, of course, we can’t neglect torque and performance; these are features which affect driving pleasure!
“CLOSE TO THE AXLE” SURELY DOESN’T MEAN A RETURN TO THE WHEEL HUB DRIVE, DOES IT?
By no means. “Close to the axle” means integrating the electric drive into the axle geometry. Therefore, the axle geometry needs to be designed in such a way that sufficient installation space is kept free inside the axle module to accommodate the electric engine. We achieved this very successfully in the EQ. Nonetheless, integrating a complete engine system in the axle module while also meeting the requirements for high-performing running gear remains a very challenging task.
Jürgen Schenk, Chief Engineer Electric Vehicles at Daimler AG
WILL ELECTROMOBILITY DEVELOPMENT INTERVALS BECOME CONSIDERABLY SHORTER?
Yes, they will. Over the past six years, we’ve seen a total of six projects through from the initial idea to production readiness. We now know very precisely how electromobility can be developed in a professional manner. We’re now moving ahead with the wealth of knowledge we’ve acquired. We carry out testing at a very early stage so that we are able, early on in the process, to deliver validated assessments of the components and systems. We use movement profiles collected from electric vehicles under real-life environmental and operating conditions. We use them for all our new designs. This is the basis for fast-track development work.
HOW CAN TYPICAL MERCEDES-BENZ CHARACTERISTICS BE MAINTAINED IN THE ELECTRIC CARS OF THE FUTURE?
We can use algorithms to demonstrate to our customers any number of real-world profiles. And we’ll also represent these profiles in configurable driving programmes so that ultimately customers can call up their individual programmes. The whole gamut of power outputs and torques from a four-cylinder to a twelve-cylinder engine can be replicated by electric motors; the sole exception being engine noise.
Jürgen Schenk, Chief Engineer Electric Vehicles at Daimler AG
WHAT EFFECT DOES ELECTROMOBILITY HAVE ON THE TECHNICAL PERIPHERALS, I.E. BRAKES, STEERING AND SUSPENSION?
The main adjustments which need to be made to the architecture affect the centre of the vehicle, the underfloor area and the body in order to be able to accommodate the battery. There will be changes to the overall design of the front and rear of the vehicle. If the installation space for the combustion engine plus transmission is occupied instead by a compact electric motor, a completely new crash concept will have to be developed. As for axles, steering and other components, we can take design solutions from our modular system, develop them and adapt them accordingly. There is no need for us to completely re-invent the motor car.
THE ELECTRIC ENGINE OPENS UP ENTIRELY NEW DIMENSIONS WHEN IT COMES TO TORQUE. HOW DO YOU CONTROL ITS FORWARD THRUST?
The torque pattern is indeed considerably different from that of combustion engines. We need to intervene to limit and control torque; otherwise, we will reach the limits of what mechanical parts and human beings can bear. Our basic configuration doesn’t aim to achieve acceleration figures which the human body cannot withstand. In the Formula Student Electric competition, for example, electric cars now easily outgun the combustion engine vehicles. At present, Stuttgart and Zurich universities are competing for the 0 to 100 km/h world acceleration record; the record currently stands at 1.513 seconds. But the drivers of these cars are trained up to astronaut standard so that they can withstand these acceleration rates and not faint.
WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE AN E-CAR WITH AN 800 KILOMETRE RANGE, CAPABLE OF BEING RE-CHARGED IN 15 MINUTES?
That will be a possibility in the next decade. However, range is not the only parameter needing to be optimised. We need to provide customers with a balance between battery size and charging technology which suits their driving profiles. Most customers drive a distance of over 500 kilometres ten times a year at most. That means that they will need to re-charge their vehicles once during a long journey on at most ten occasions each year. If you add up all the times you re-charge in a year, customers will spend some 300-400 minutes with their electric vehicles connected up to the charging station – and anyone charging up overnight doesn’t have to wait by the vehicle. In comparison: A conventionally powered vehicle will make at least 50 stops a year at a fuel pump and ten times at a motorway filling station. That comes to around 360 minutes a year spent at the filling station. Any differences between drive types disappear when this aspect is considered.
BUT SO FAR ELECTROMOBILITY IS STILL LACKING A CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE AND A STANDARDISED PAYMENT METHOD.
In response to our customers’ desire for a dense charging infrastructure, we, together with other manufacturers, have committed to establishing a high-performance charging infrastructure. This will make it possible to charge at up to 350 kilowatts so that a 75 kilowatt hour battery can be 80 % charged in less than 20 minutes. Our commitment will supplement government plans which envisage up to an additional 42,000 charging stations. It is true that innovative payment solutions need to be found, such as paying by mobile phone or payments handled directly between the vehicle and the infrastructure.
WHAT’S THE POSITION WITH PLUG-IN HYBRID DEVELOPMENT AND WHEN WILL WE SEE ANY CONSIDERABLE INCREASE IN ELECTRIC VEHICLE RANGE?
In the very near future, the range will increase to a good 50 kilometres. 100 kilometres is a realistic figure within the next decade. 80 % of journeys can then be made under electric power.
IN WHICH SEGMENT WILL ELECTROMOBILITY GAIN A FOOTHOLD MOST RAPIDLY?
All the way from city cars up to the luxury class. There will be no exceptions. City cars need a range of around 150 kilometres. But 150 kilometres won’t be enough for the E-Class or S-Class. We need to find the sweet spot between charging time and energy content. We’ll compromise at a 500 kilometre range and 15 to 20 minutes charging time. In the future, customers will opt for electromobility, once they see its many advantages. Because, in the end, we want to convince our customers, not just persuade them.
In the 2020s, electric vehicles will become as cheap to run as their conventionally powered competitors. And by 2030, the total cost of ownership for EVs will actually be less than the equivalent figure for petrol or diesel cars. This is the finding of a study by the European Consumer Organisation BEUC. However, this scenario will only come to pass if emission regulations are significantly tightened within the EU.
The Brussels-based BEUC estimates that the average four-year TCO of an electric car will match that of a conventional combustion-powered car by 2024. This trend will mainly be driven by the falling cost of purchasing an electric vehicle. The BEUC has calculated that prices for the energy storage units alone will drop significantly in the coming years because of the anticipated economies of scale.
The authors of the study say that between 2020 and 2030 the TCO of electric vehicles and combustion models will converge and then electrics will actually become cheaper. According to their calculations, an electric car purchased even in 2020 will have much lower total costs over its entire lifetime than a combustion model. The total costs for a petrol car will be €57,939, whereas only €51,079 will be incurred by the electric model. “Electric vehicles should no longer be the privilege of the few but become affordable to the masses within the next decade,” says Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC.
In their illustrative calculation, the experts compared a combustion and electric model from the C segment. In 2018, the four-year TCO for a conventionally powered vehicle came out almost 8 percent lower than for an electric vehicle. The cost of manufacturing the EVs’ batteries was clearly the primary contributor to the additional expense. By 2020, the difference in cost will fall to 4 percent before narrowing further to 1.5 percent by 2025 and ending up at a negligible 0.5 percent gap by the end of the 2020s, equivalent of €100 or thereabouts. The range that can be covered by electric vehicles will also increase to an average of 320 km.
The BEUC report says that “because of the expected and significant fall in the cost of electric cars, there is a good chance that they will become affordable to the mass market between 2020 and 2030.”
CAR2GO IS MAKING A TANGIBLE CONTRIBUTION TO REDUCING TRAFFIC AND EMISSIONS IN CITY CENTRES. BUT THERE ARE STILL ISSUES WITH THE AVAILABILITY OF PARKING SPACES. WHAT INPUT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE FROM LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO MAKE CARSHARING MORE POPULAR?
Thomas Beermann: Free-floating carsharing is a great opportunity for cities. Every large city that we have spoken to has more or less the same three problems, namely traffic density, air pollution and a lack of parking spaces. The service provided by car2go offers proven relief for all these problems. Some authorities are fully aware of this, others are still lagging behind. Especially in Italy many authorities are very progressive when it comes to finding solutions to these problems.
Areas where cities can help us include parking regulations and access restrictions. A hot topic, for example, is the question of residents’ parking. We frequently receive complaints from people who contend that they are allowed to park their own car in front of their house, but that a neighbour who uses car2go and has no car of their own should not be allowed to. We view this somewhat differently, of course. Clear policies are needed in every city in which we are active. The carsharing law that is currently under discussion in Germany has the potential to be an important framework.
HOW MANY CAR2GO VEHICLES ARE CURRENTLY ON THE ROAD?
Currently, there are more than 14,000 car2go vehicles in 26 cities. On average, each vehicle is used between six and eight times a day. Our most successful location in Madrid even sees averages of 15 times. The more often vehicles are used, the less often they are taking up valuable parking spaces. And the more people use our vehicles, the fewer private cars there will be in the cities. That’s why our strategic focus is on increasing the capacity utilisation of the vehicles.
IS CAR2GO NOT A COMPETITOR TO PUBLIC TRANSPORT?
We consider our carsharing service to be an addition to urban traffic that works as part of a closely integrated system with other operators, and particularly public transport. And this is reflected in our users, who use car2go intelligently in combination with other services. Sometimes the car is the best way to get from A to B, and sometimes it’s the metro. It depends on many factors: what time of day am I travelling? Is there currently a traffic jam in the city? Do I have any luggage with me? What is the weather like? The list goes on.
Thomas Beermann, Managing Director of car2go Europe
SO FAR, CAR2GO HAS MAINLY USED SMART CARS. WILL THIS CONTINUE TO BE THE CASE?
In Germany car2go is already using Mercedes-Benz cars at all locations except Stuttgart. This is the result of clear feedback from our customers, who occasionally would have liked a bigger car, and this will be the future direction we take. We will have a good mix of smart and Mercedes-Benz cars, but the right mix may vary a little between locations. The Mercedes-Benz cars have undoubtedly been very well received by our customers. A rollout in other locations such as Vienna and North America is planned for the first quarter.
WHAT ROLE DOES ELECTROMOBILITY PLAY?
We’re already the largest provider of free-floating electric carsharing. In Stuttgart, Amsterdam and Madrid we have electric-only fleets of more than 1,300 electric smart cars. The electric vehicle segment is of key strategic importance to us. In the long term we see the future of carsharing as purely electrically powered, but there needs to be a considerable expansion of the charging station infrastructure in many cities to achieve this. The experience we have already gained in operating electric fleets is our greatest asset. No other company has better knowledge of how to implement this commercially.
A STUDY BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY SHOWS THAT CAR2GO CAN HELP REDUCE CAR OWNERSHIP. IS THERE SIMILAR RESEARCH FOR GERMANY OR EUROPE?
Over the past year a number of similar studies have been carried out in Milan, Munich, Vienna and other cities. Fundamentally, they all come to the conclusion that, on average, every carsharing vehicle replaces six to eight private vehicles. Either the users don’t buy a car as they had planned to, or they sell their old vehicle. It’s small and old vehicles, in particular, that are removed from our roads.
WHAT IS THE AGE STRUCTURE OF CAR2GO CUSTOMERS?
The typical car2go customer is male, around 30 years old and well educated, which is a very interesting target group. Especially when you consider that they’re also likely to be the potential Mercedes-Benz buyers of tomorrow. A simple calculation highlights the marketing value of car2go for Mercedes-Benz as a brand: if we rented out 300 Mercedes-Benz cars in Berlin around eight times per day on average, then that would equal 2,400 test drives daily by a highly attractive target group.
The automotive world is currently undergoing a change that is not only driven by alternative drive types, but also by the way in which vehicles are used. Vehicle ownership is no longer seen as a must. Manufacturers that once limited themselves to delivering moving status symbols are now evolving into mobility service providers. Carsharing, rather than car ownership, is the new normal, and Daimler is playing a leading role in this trend. car2go is currently the largest carsharing company in the world. Around two million customers in nine countries and 29 urban centres now take advantage of this “temporary mobility” service.
This trend has an impact on the number of vehicles on the roads and therefore on the environment, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. In the first scientific study of its kind, Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen gathered data over a three-year period in the cities of Calgary and Vancouver in Canada, and Seattle, San Diego and Washington D.C. in the US. The two scientists looked at how car2go impacts on urban mobility and on environmental pollution from traffic.
“Our exhaustive, three-year research effort into one-way carsharing reveals that car2go vehicles result in fewer privately owned vehicles on the road, fewer vehicle miles travelled and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the cities observed,” says Susan Shaheen. “Participation from car2go and its members gave us unprecedented access and insight into how this kind of innovative mobility service works. We were able to research how it is impacting on North American cities, especially as car2go has the largest carsharing fleet in North America.” Data from 9,497 car2go customers was analysed for the study.
Sharing, rather than owning, and only paying when you are actually at the wheel, is not just good for car2go customers. The environment and urban air quality also benefit from lower traffic density. Between 2 and 5 percent of car2go customers even sold their own vehicle as a result of their carsharing experience, the researchers from Berkeley discovered. The average age of the vehicles sold by car2go members was 14.4 years.
A further 7 to 10 percent of respondents kept their car, but no longer pursued the planned purchase of a new vehicle. Overall, one car2go car replaces between seven and eleven vehicles on city streets, according to the researchers’ calculations. A positive side effect is that city centres gained additional parking capacity as a result of the 28,000 drop in the number of vehicles in the cities studied.
The cowboy city of Calgary in Canada saw the largest fall in the number of privately owned cars because of car2go. Every shared car replaced a total of eleven vehicles here, adding up to the equivalent of 6,000 vehicles. The environment also benefited from a reduction in greenhouse gases of 14 tonnes per car2go vehicle, a total of around 8,000 tonnes of CO₂ a year. In Vancouver, which is particularly environmentally conscious, car2go removed over 8,000 vehicles from the streets. The total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) fell by 34.2 million miles and the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was 10,000 tonnes.
The researchers from Berkeley estimate that the sharing of cars has led to a saving of between ten and 29 million VMT per year per city. This equals a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 5.5 and 12.7 tonnes per car2go vehicle. On average, environmental pollution in the cities studied fell by 10 percent. According to the scientists’ calculations, the overall reduction in greenhouse gases in the five cities was in the region of 39,127 tonnes.
The study also found that carsharing influenced everyday driving habits. 10 percent of participants in the five cities stated that they drive less overall. However, a majority, especially in densely populated urban centres such as Vancouver and Washington, stated that they tend to drive more. Among the losers are the taxi companies, as it appears that car2go is seen as a replacement for taxis in most cities. But car2go customers also use public transport less frequently and get around on foot more often.
The study was carried out by Innovative Mobility Research. The research team belongs to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) at Berkeley and focuses on research into the future of mobility.
Paul DeLong, CEO of car2go USA, is excited about the study: “The findings confirm that carsharing has a significant and positive impact on the cities in terms of a reduction of vehicle miles travelled and a fall in environmental pollution.”
Spontaneously organise a carshare through an app, take advantage of flexible carsharing or hail, pay for and review a taxi at the click of a button. The ability to do this will play an increasingly important role in urban centres around the world over the coming years, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in California called “The Impact of New Mobility Services on the Automotive Industry”.
The study identifies two initially important target groups for this development, the so-called millennials born around the turn of the century, and the baby boomers born between the end of the Second World War and the 1960s. Using the range of digital mobility services comes naturally to the younger group, while older customers choose these new mobility services (NMS) as they value the convenience and flexibility.
But what benefits does this trend have for the automotive industry? The conclusions of the CAR study make for positive reading for the industry: “The mainstreaming of new mobility services is an opportunity for automakers more than it is a threat,” according to the white paper.
The industry must be prepared to reinvent itself, and that is a task that is as old as the motor car itself. Its inventors, Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, did more than just introduce a radically new means of transport back in 1886. The two automotive pioneers also turned the established engine manufacturing sector on its head. The motor car allowed the stationary working machine to become the beating heart of a new product, which in turn enabled a whole range of new services.
This ability to adapt is in the automotive sector’s genes. Daimler has created several mobility services that bring new targets into vehicle development, such as autonomous, electrically powered and networked driving. These services include the Moovel app, the MyTaxi portal, the carsharing provider car2go and the professional driver service Blacklane. The company runs these providers either as subsidiaries, or it owns a share in them, for example in the leading coach company Flixbus. Mercedes-Benz also offers customers around the world complete systems for bus rapid transit (BRT), covering everything from vehicles and consultancy to financing.
The study views new mobility services less as catalysts of a sudden sea change than as drivers of a steady evolution in mobility: “The gradual change will allow everyone involved in the transport sector – in particular vehicle manufacturers – to adapt and to secure their market position,” says the white paper.