If you've lived in a major metropolis around Europe, with a reliable public transport system, you probably feel that owning a car is a luxury more than a necessity. In fact, owning a car might not be the most cost-effective decision for your pocket. According to recent statistics, ownership of a car costs UK drivers an average of £388 per month. That is why in recent years, new start-ups have been offering the possibility of renting a vehicles as you need it. WhichEV investigates one company's push to offer ultra low cost sharing.
Before the famous bicycle hire schemes launched in London and other cities around the world, we'd always thought of a bike as something personal – something you buy, own and keep safe at home, with your own combination lock. Using an app to unlock a transport vehicle as needed (and only paying for it while you're using it), has kicked-off a mini revolution.
Pay as you use electric scooters (e-scooters) have invaded many cities across Europe and more brands are looking to launch this kind of service. We've used them several times around Germany and can confirm that they really are cheap and convenient.
Now it seems that very low cost, ‘as you need it' electric car rentals are about to become a reality. The idea is that users can rent the car for short periods of time (even by the hour) and, once they are done driving, they can simply park it legally – ready for the next customer.
Free2Move is about to launch something new in the ‘shared mobility space' in France.
The car it has chosen is the brand new, all-electric, Citroën Ami, which we saw being launched in Paris last month. To buy the vehicle outright will be €6,000, although there are finance options which can get you to €19.99 a month on a lease purchase scheme. The presentation we saw, also mentioned a sharing option.
At only 2.41m long and with the capability of recharging on a standard wall socket, the Ami's ability to drive at 28mph (45km/h) for up to 70 km (43 miles) makes it a great choice for inner-city sharing.
As a purchase, you can drive the Citroen Ami in France from the age of 14. However, we're not sure if that means a 14 year old will be able to ride share – given that the apps involved normally need a credit card attached at the back end for payment. Credit cards are normally available to those aged 18 and above. We will check on this with Free2Move.
Free2move aims to give its customers the flexibility to choose the length of the trip with competitive rates through their app. According to the company there is no minimum rental duration. They will be two pricing options for Ami:
- Without a subscription
Rental costs will be only €0.39 per minute, €18 for the first hour. Any additional hours will be €9 to a maximum of €60 per day
- With a ‘no contract' subscription
While agreeing to pay €9.90 per month, your rental costs will drop to just €0.26 per minute, €12 for the first hour and €6 for any additional hours – to a maximum of €40 per day
Free2Move explained that the best tariff will be always be automatically applied. For example, after 45 minutes, Free2Move will switch you from a by-the-minute charge to an hourly rental rate etc always making it as cheap as possible for the driver.
Once the driver is done with their trip, they can simply park the vehicle in any legal public parking space on the street. Other users will be able to find the vehicle through the Free2Move app.
According to Free2Move, users can access to more than 500 electric vehicles across Paris, and also in the neighbouring towns of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, Vanves, Sèvres, Saint-Cloud and Saint-Mandé. It is accessible 24/7, and the fleet currently consists of Citroën C-Zéro and Peugeot iOn electric cars.
Many industry experts believe that we're moving to a future where fewer and fewer people actually own their vehicle. If a brand new car costs £30,000 and you put a 10% deposit with a view to paying off the loan over 5 years, then you will be paying around £550 a month on a 9% APR. Altogether, you would be spending around £21 a day excluding insurance, servicing and tyres. You pay that, whether you drive or not. The ability to get into and out of a car, whenever you need it, for less than £40 a day could make sense. If you only needed to drive to the shops and back – maybe 15 minutes each way – then your daily rental could be closer to £12. A saving of more than £3,000 a year compared to the loan-purchase we outlined.
If the market becomes more crowded and electric car prices drop, then this kind of sharing could become a no-brainer choice for inner-city drivers.