Zipcar hits 250,000 members as new petrol and diesel car sales fall

Zipcar launched in the UK in 2003 under the name 'Streetcar'

Published today (20 February), the firm’s annual results state that the company now owns more than 2,600 electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK, which are being shared among a community of 250,000+ Zipcar members.

This growth has largely been driven by the expansion of Zipcar’s ‘Flex’ service – a pay-per-minute scheme which allows drivers to “drive and drop” EVs for one-way trips within London. The popularity of the service has surged particularly in outer-London boroughs, with the number of trips being made in Lewisham and Wandsworth having undergone 44% and 38% year-on-year growths respectively.

Zipcar’s UK general manager Jonathan Hampson noted that these trends have been recorded at a time when car sales are “continually” falling in the UK, with residents having registered 6.8% fewer vehicles last year than in 2017. Similarly, the UK’s EV stock is estimated to have grown by 54% between 2016 and 2017 to reach 134,000+.

Hampson said that such trends of consumption were likely to be caused by “a combination of factors”, including the rising costs of car ownership in urban areas and growing public awareness around issues such as air pollution and climate change.

“London is an increasingly expensive city to live in, and people just can’t afford to own a car when they don’t need it every day, so it makes more sense to share – especially with the hefty new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges about to come into force,” Hampson explained.

“Moreover, air pollution is now considered to be at crisis level by 90% of Londoners, which is prompting them to seek out greener ways to get around the city. We know from research that car sharers are twice as likely to use public transport or bikes than use a car, meaning our service is helping tackle issues like car dependency head-on.”

EV growth in the fast lane

The publication of Zipcar’s results come after the firm committed last summer to make 325 fully electric Volkswagen e-Golfs available to its members by the end of the year, with the first 100 having been rolled out before July 2018. 

This ‘pilot’ cohort of 100 EVs was revealed last October to have been used more than 20,000 times within their first three months of operation. Now that a full roll-out of the 325 vehicles is complete, Zipcar has recorded journeys totalling almost 500,000 miles through this offering.

The London fleet forms part of Zipcar’s goal of getting 800,000 Londoners actively using 9,000 zero-emission shared cars in the capital by 2025.

The car-sharing network claims the move would see 160,000 tonnes less CO2 emitted and 821 million fewer miles driven every year, alongside 120,000 fewer privately owned cars on the streets of London.

Sharing is caring

Away from the UK, car-sharing is also gaining popularity in mainland Europe.

Volkswagen, for example, is in the process of launching a car-sharing pool of 2,000 fully electric vehicles in Berlin by the end of 2019. The carmaker will roll out 1,500 e-Golfs in the German capital by March as part of the ‘We Share’ scheme, with 500 e-up! EVs to be added to the fleet in the coming months.

Volkswagen claimed that its decision to launch the service came after its own research revealed that the uptake of on-demand vehicles in Europe is set to rise by 15% annually from 2019.

Similarly, French automaker Renault piloted an entirely electrified ride-hailing and car-sharing scheme in Paris last September, following the success of a similar scheme in Madrid. 2,000 EVs are now available through this service.

Sarah George

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