Car rental 2.002 Jul 2012

A 'Boris bike' scheme... only for cars

The success of the Boris bike scheme in London could pave the way across the UK for one-way car clubs based on the same idea.

Research for the RAC Foundation shows there are already 100,000 people in London taking part in ‘traditional’ car clubs (such as Zipcar and City Car Club) which allow drivers to rent vehicles by the hour picking them up from scores of on-street locations before returning them to the same location later.

But a new report – Car Rental 2.0 – by Scott Le Vine of Imperial College suggests a rental scheme based more closely on the Boris bike scheme could have a potential market of 1.6 million people in the capital alone. This type of model would allow people to pick up a car in one place and drop it off elsewhere.

One such scheme started in Paris just before Christmas. Autolib’ offers more than 1,700 cars at 250 locations across the city.

car2go will try to replicate the idea in Birmingham this autumn in the first scheme of its type in this country.

The benefits of car club membership for individuals are clear:

  • No ongoing costs of ownership such as insurance, maintenance, MOT
  • Parking is less of a problem
  • A variety of models can potentially be hired depending on need
  • Hire cars will be the latest models and in good condition

Local authorities will be at the forefront of one-way car club development because club operators will normally need access to scarce road space on which to park their vehicles. Councils are liable to charge for this, not least if they have to forego existing income from metered bays for intended for general public use. In Washington DC car2go pays the district about £2,000 a year for each of its cars.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Car clubs offer huge scope for allowing those currently priced out of the car market to make motorised trips without all the normally associated costs.

“The big unknown is whether overall traffic and emissions will increase. As renting a car becomes easier and more convenient many people might do away with car ownership and switch to other modes of travel where practical, safe in the knowledge they can still get hold of a vehicle where buses, trains and taxis etc. are impractical. However, local authorities would do well to ‘try on’ new sorts of schemes before making long-term commitments.

“This market is now moving so fast that people can even rent a car from individual owners in their neighbourhood. WhipCar, for example, will put you in touch with those in your area who are happy to rent their personal vehicles by the hour.

“A big benefit of car clubs is that in the long term they offer the chance to significantly reduce the pressure on parking congestion with a single car serving the needs of many people.”



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications:

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN) | 07711 776448

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation which explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users. The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.

The report is available to download at the RAC Foundation website or by following this link: