Michael Green February 19, 2012
Calls for fewer parking spaces in new apartments to replaced by cars to share.
There are now more than 200 share cars dotted around inner Melbourne. And before long, that number will double again. Car share schemes work like this: you join up, book online when you need a vehicle, then walk over and swipe in.
In Melbourne, there are three companies: GoGet, Flexicar and GreenShareCar. The rates and plans differ, but all involve a membership fee and a charge for usage.
It's a model that's growing rapidly in many countries, and one that steers gently into the space left vacant by shifts in the way we're using our cars.
In recent years, the increase of car ownership has slowed in Australia, and the distance we drive in each vehicle has begun to decline. Meanwhile, public transport patronage is on the rise.
Stephen Ingrouille, who publishes a newsletter on sustainable transport for his business, Going Solar, says car sharing is a key part of a greener city, because it reduces congestion and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
''We're not going to wean this society off its car obsession for a long time - that's just a reality. But car sharing is a good intermediate solution,'' he says.
''Share cars tend to be energy-efficient models: the companies want them to run as cheaply as possible because petrol is included in the cost.''
Research by consultants Frost and Sullivan in the US found that in 2009, every share car replaced 15 private cars, and car sharing members drove almost one-third less than they would if they owned a vehicle. Widespread growth of these schemes would mean fewer motors, used more efficiently.
With this in mind, Mr Ingrouille argues that governments should require apartment developers to swap large car parks for modest car-share bays, or even taxi ranks - thereby reducing construction costs, as well as traffic.
''A lot of energy goes into manufacturing cars, but often they're just sitting idly,'' he says. ''Typically, a family might have had two cars; with car sharing they could have just one. Or for people like me, who prefer public transport, it's great to have access to a car occasionally.''
Mike Murray, from GoGet, says householders join up to save money and for convenience - especially in areas where parking is limited. In Surry Hills, in inner Sydney, two out of every 10 licence-holders are GoGet members.
Late last year, GoGet bought its first fully electric vehicles, Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, and one is now parked at The Nicholson Apartments in Coburg. Another one will soon be stationed in South Yarra.
Mr Murray says electric vehicles are perfectly suited to car sharing, because the average GoGet trip is only 30 kilometres. ''People suffer from what we call 'range anxiety' with electric vehicles, but you could do more than three of our regular trips before you'd have to charge it [the battery] at all.''
He believes car sharing can spread beyond Zone 1. ''We're trying to develop a low-density car-sharing model, because that's where most Melburnians are - we're not all in Brunswick or Southbank.''
GoGet will begin by parking shared utility vehicles at Stockland's Selandra Rise development in Casey. ''The developer is telling us that a lot of households have three vehicles. If they owned one car and had car sharing instead they'd save a lot of money.''