What will urban car driving in Europe look like in 2021? The Boston Consulting Group forecasts that at least 14 million people will be registered in a car-sharing service, and 1.4 million of them will be heavy users, taking multiple trips each month. Along with these trends will also come the use of electric cars powered by renewable sources.

According to the BCG report, car-sharing is taking hold in large urban areas in both the developed and the developing world: “Although the largest market is the Asia-Pacific region (including Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan), with 2.3 million users and 33,000 vehicles, Europe (including Turkey and Russia) boasts the largest service per capita, with 2.1 million users and 31,000 vehicles. North America (including Canada and the United States), brings up the rear, with 1.5 million users sharing 22,000 vehicles.”

In 2015, users of car-sharing booked 2.5 billion minutes and the car-sharing industry generated €650 million in revenues, explained the authors of the study, Julien Bert, Brian Collie, Marco Gerrits, and Gang Xu.

What is car-sharing? It is an umbrella term that covers multiple modes of sharing. It is distinct from ride sharing, which involves being driven rather than driving, and has existed on an informal basis for as long as there have been cars, ultimately evolving into organised taxi services and more recently into new models such as Uber and Lyft.

Car-sharing is already happening in 490 German cities

The authors of the study also pointed out that the car-sharing business has grown rapidly in areas which are above certain social, economic, and demographic thresholds. In Germany, for example, some 140 different services are in operation, controlling a car-sharing fleet that has grown from about 1,000 vehicles in 2001 to more than 15,400 today – about 50% of the total European fleet – with most of the growth occurring since 2011. The customer base has grown from a mere handful of early adopters in 2001 to more than 1 million, again with a sharp increase since 2011. Station-based car-sharing is now available in 490 German cities serving a population of 36 million potential users. Thirteen cities with a total population of 10 million potential customers are home to free-floating car services.

€4.95 vs. €18.90 per 7.5 kilometres

Looking more in depth, in Germany – and particularly in Berlin, one of the world capitals of car-sharing and home to an installed fleet of 2,900 vehicles – the service is only one of several mobility options, and far from the most widely used. B2C car-sharing services, operated by either OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) or new entrants, account for only 0.1% of mobility options, compared with 29.5% for private cars and 12.5% for bicycles. At €4.95, the cost of travelling 7.5 kilometres (the average distance of a car-sharing trip) via a car-sharing service is considerably less than the €18.90 cost of a taxi for the same distance, but more than the €3.45 cost of a private car and the €2.70 fare on public transport.

Growth of green car-sharing fleets

The driving experience of the future is not just 100% flexible but also 100% electric. For some years now, in the city of Berlin, 250 Citroën C-Zeros have been available charged by green electricity from 100% renewable energy sources by Citroën Multicity Car-sharing Berlin. Launched in August 2012, Citroën’s Multicity project is one of the very few car-sharing schemes in Germany that is 100% based on electric vehicles. Not only are the cars electric, but also all the electricity that they are powered with is from renewable sources. This is ensured by using a TÜV SÜD-certified RWE ePOWER network that delivers electricity coming from a mix of wind and hydro power.

First 30 electric car-sharing cars launched in Ljubljana

Two weeks ago, Ljubljana joined the European capitals with a strong green vision of future mobility by introducing the first Avant2go car-sharing model. The project is part of Ljubljana City Municipality's efforts to clean up Ljubljana's air. “It is an important step towards saving the planet, which puts Ljubljana on the pedestal of Europe,” commented Ljubljana’s Mayor, Zoran Janković.

Thirty vehicles are available for rent in the first year of the car-sharing scheme, and new cars will be added if needed, said Matej Čer, CEO of Avantcar, at the opening event. The car-sharing stations are located near BTC (Ljubljana’s biggest shopping centre) and Teknoloski Park (the hub for technology and start-ups). The ambitious goal of Ljubljana Municipality is to have between 5-10 thousand fewer cars in the city by 2018. That will achieve a reduction of one million grammes of CO2 per kilometre. Ljubljana will eventually have a fleet of more than 500 electric cars available for sharing, Čer estimated.

Global market size in 2021: 35 million users

Now let’s take a look at the bigger picture: in the BCG report it is pointed out that car-sharing “will expand relatively quickly and widely. Estimates suggest that in Europe some 81 million people will be living in large urban areas in 2021, 46 million of whom will have a valid driver’s licence. About 14 million people will be registered with a car-sharing service and 1.4 million of them will be heavy users who take multiple trips per month.”

Globally up to 35 million people worldwide will be registered with at least one car-sharing provider, as seen in the table shown in the Gallery Section.

How all will this affect the car manufacturing industry?

BCG estimates that the rapid growth of the car-sharing trend will only have a minimal effect on new car sales, mostly because drivers will not forgo car ownership entirely. Also, a proportion of lost car sales will be partially offset by sales in car-sharing fleets in large urban areas.