‘Kind of a swimming pool, but useful’: why more Australians will share electric cars

Key points
  • Car sharing services also extend to electric cars.
  • Shared electric vehicles are offered to residential buildings, office buildings and hotels.
  • Experts say the trend could also have significant implications for car ownership in Australia.
What if you didn’t need a car? What if you could just pop down and borrow one when you need a ride?
It’s an offer being made to residents of a growing number of Australian apartment buildings, office buildings, hotels and even retirement villages.
It’s part of a new trend in transportation, with the rise of car-sharing services and the fact that many drivers are trying out electric cars for the first time.

Transport experts say the trend could also have significant implications for car ownership in Australia and the amount of parking we see in future buildings.

This trend falls under the umbrella of “shared mobility” and is introduced as an amenity in new construction, large buildings where parking is scarce, and in urban apartment buildings where residents want to reduce their costs.
Ohmie Go founder and chief executive Kyle Bolto said the company has 14 shared mobile spaces operating in buildings across Australia, with another 20 under contract, and wants to have it “in at least 100 buildings by the end of 2023”.
Convincing building owners to use the service was easy, he said as he explained how it works.
“We have a little line: we say it’s like a swimming pool, but useful,” Mr. Bolto said.
Shared mobility services like Ohmie Go offer electric vehicle fleet packages. The company provides vehicles as well as chargers and electrical infrastructure, insurance, registration, regular detailing, roadside assistance and a software system for residents to book and pay for vehicles.
Residents charge a modest fee to rent shared cars — for example, driving a Tesla Model 3 for an hour costs $16.50 at Ohmie Go — and Mr. Bolto said the service is changing the way residents view their own cars.
“Now we’re really starting to see some of our users say, ‘Why do I have a car? It makes no sense,” he said.
“We have a mission to change the way people think about cars.

“For certain demographics in the suburbs, regional areas, rural areas, we understand (car ownership), but in dense urban environments we’re really trying to use the transition to electric vehicles as an excuse to say, ‘You don’t need to buy your own car,'” standing there 90 percent of the time.”

Ohmie Go recently unveiled a shared Tesla Model 3 at the Europa on Alma retirement village in St Kilda, Victoria, and two Teslas at an office block in Rhodes Corporate Park, Sydney.

While residents were often excited about the advent of electric cars, Luke Rust, who created the car-sharing service Outbound, said developers were more motivated by the savings they could provide.

Fewer cars, fewer parking spaces

Introducing a shared fleet of electric vehicles, he said, not only adds value to developers, but can help justify including less parking in a building design.
“If people have access to shared vehicles, they don’t need to have their dedicated private vehicles on site, and developers can get away with fewer private parking spaces,” he said.
“The trajectory is to have much less private parking and much more shared mobility.”
Mr Rust admitted it was too early to see major changes to parking requirements – “councils are still concerned that 90 per cent of people in the building own cars and park them around the city” – but being able to provide statistics on these projects could to change opinions.
“They may change the planning rules if we see this shift in behaviour,” he said.
Mr Rust, who operates a shared Tesla car at the Manta at Sharks Gold Coast Hotel, said the service also gave people the chance to drive an electric car for the first time, helping to accelerate the transition to zero-emission transport.
He said greener vehicles were more practical to share because of lower maintenance costs and no need for off-site refuelling.

“Operationally, electric vehicles make a lot of sense in this type of service because they always come back to base and we can put a charger on site,” he said.

Hussain Dia, a future professor of urban mobility at Swinburne University, said the concept behind shared electric car fleets was not new — “it’s gaining some traction in Europe and North America” ​​— but it could have unexpected benefits for the environment and the cost of living in Australia.
“When you think about the total cost of ownership, from the time you buy the vehicle and then you pay the registration fees and the insurance, it’s actually a very big expense,” he said.
“Given that average vehicles spend 90 percent of their time in garages, it’s a very bad investment from an investment point of view. Maybe there are better ways to use that money.”
A recent Uber survey by Censuswide found that the average cost of owning a car is $14,799 a year, even though 59 percent of owners said they use their cars less.
While there’s little that compares to the “convenience of a private car,” Mr. Dia said, some owners will use “shared mobility” services like these and car-sharing services like Turo and Uber Carshare to reduce costs.
“There is some anecdotal evidence that these projects are helping families get rid of a second car,” Mr Dia said.

“A lot of families might say they don’t need a car for the weekend; they can sell it and use the other one. The rest of what they need, they can hire a car on demand.”

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