Owning and driving a car contributes around 2.6t per year of CO2 – the equivalent of 20 flights to Rome. And whilst reducing car journeys is certainly a good thing, the elephant in the room remains private car ownership.
Between 25-50% of a car’s lifetime emissions is incurred before it leaves the factory floor. Or, to put it another way, simply by owning a car you never use you’re already contributing 5-10 flights to Rome’s worth of CO2 per year.
In 2019 the Science Select Committee told MPs that ‘widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation’. And yet few leaders are politically brave enough to openly repeat this obvious fact: we need fewer cars, not just newer cars.
But the good news is that there’s an excellent solution: car-sharing. Car-sharing can be informally arranged with friends or family, or it can be a community initiative such as a local car club. There are ‘airbnb for cars’ services such as Hiyacar, Karshare, Getaround and Turo which allow individuals to share their cars with verified drivers for a fee, and then there are business-run car clubs like Co-wheels, Zipcar, and Enterprise. As the founder of a campaign group, ShareOurCars, I believe all types of car-sharing are brilliant and we promote all of them. However, we pioneered a new way of easily sharing cars in communities, called ‘closed loops’.
Our idea was that there are many people who would willingly share their car with others in their local community (neighbourhood, friends, community group) but who would not want the worry of sharing their car with strangers on an ‘airbnb for cars’ service. So we approached Hiyacar and asked them whether it was possible for them to create a virtual ‘ringfence’, so that we could share cars with people only in that group. They were keen to test it, and we called them ‘closed loops’.
Closed loops can be as simple as one car shared with a street. Or as complex as a fleet of cars shared by everyone who works for a specific employer. They can be created with a list of names, or by allowing anyone who lives within a specific area to join. The great thing about closed loops is they use all of Hiyacar’s tech, insurance, scheduling and logistics – making them incredibly easy to manage – but they restrict users to a pre-approved group, making them trusted.
The first loop we created was in late 2021 for anyone living in a network of 8 streets in East Oxford who are all part of the same residents’ association, IFRA. Since then we’ve had other people launch their own neighbourhood loops, including one very successful one in West Oxford which is just one person sharing his car with his street. Drivers pay a fee to the car owner who sets the price, to the insurance company, and to Hiyacar themselves. It works out as roughly comparable in price to one of the car-clubs, although it’s cheaper for longer rentals. The other advantage is that it’s very easy to set up in places where the car clubs don’t operate, such as smaller villages and towns.
Some people need to use cars, and some need to own them. The RAC estimates that most cars are only used 96.5% of the time. If people who needed to own cars were willing to share them when they weren’t being used, we could all save a lot of money, get cars off the streets, and benefit the environment significantly.
For more information on how to set up a loop go to www.shareourcars.com