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Car sharing on road to success

The red Mobility vehicles are a familiar sight on Swiss roads Keystone

The sharing scheme, Mobility, is proving ever more popular - more people strap into co-op car seats in Switzerland than anywhere else in the world.

This content was published on August 7, 2002 - 15:40

"I have been using this scheme for the last five years," said one man from Zurich. "It's an excellent way - in addition to public transport - to get around cities and towns."

While this man abandoned his own car, he has not given up on personal motorised transport. He is just one of 47,000 people in Switzerland who share 17,000 cars operated under the Mobility scheme.

Car co-op

The car cooperative has not stopped growing over the past five years - it started in 1997 with 760 cars and 17,000 members.

"We are the largest organisation of its kind in the world," said Karl Heusi, general manager of Mobility.

Some 55,000 people car share in Germany, according to Jürgen Tesch, director of a similar scheme in Munich.

However, car sharing in Germany is not run on a centralised basis, which partly explains why it has not taken off in the same way as in Switzerland, where centralisation helped to improve service and unify tariffs.

Associations have also been set up elsewhere in Europe but have not been as successful as in Switzerland.

Good public transport

Reliable and efficient public transport has also persuaded drivers to switch to pooled cars. "In Switzerland, many people can use public transport for most of their journeys," explained Ueli Haefeli, a transport expert at the institute, Interface.

As a result, car sharers only use vehicles for special trips: to go to a supermarket located on the outskirts of a town or to go on an excursion to the countryside, for example.

According to a study conducted in 1998 for a government scheme, Energy 2000, advocates of the scheme reduced the distance they travelled in a vehicle by 6,700 kilometres per year, while the amount of petrol they used fell by up to 57 per cent.

Eco-friendly

This drop in energy consumption not only benefits the environment but also the bank balance: gone are worries over insurance, car assessments, road tax, and even winter tyres.

"We are seeing that the economic advantages of car sharing are becoming more significant," said Heusi.

Mobility has now set its sights on winning more clients - 1.7 million people are potential car sharing customers, according to the survey for Energy 2000.

The organisation believes that its potential customers are generally those who travel less than 12,000 kilometres per year. In Switzerland, some 500,000 people fall into this category.

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