Written evidence from Zipcar (ELV0122) 

 

Electric vehicles inquiry launched by Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee

 

Zipcar UK response, James Taylor, 15 September 2023

 

Introduction to Zipcar:

 

Zipcar is the world’s leading car sharing club, giving members quick, affordable, and reliable access to thousands of cars and vans near them. Operating in the UK (London, Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford) for nearly two decades and with a membership of over half a million, Zipcar has played an influential role in normalising more sustainable travel for those living and working in cities.

 

In London our 3,000 low and zero emission vehicles can be found in every borough, and we have over 1,000 electric cars - with a vision to be fully electric by 2025.

 

Our mission - to enable simple and responsible urban living - is still at the heart of everything we do. Zipcar provides communities and members with a sustainable mobility option when they need four wheels that supports the liveability of our cities.

 

Independent studies (CoMo research) have shown that Zipcar’s model of car sharing reduces vehicle ownership as well as miles driven, freeing up space for people in our cities. Zipcar has disrupted and innovated the traditional model of car ownership and continues to be an increasingly integral part of city living.

 

Zipcar has provided a response to the following questions:

 

  1. What are the main obstacles to the achievement of the Government’s 2030 and 2035 phase-out dates? Are the phase-out dates realistic and achievable? If not, what steps should the Government take to make the phase-out dates achievable?

 

There are three key components which play a part in achieving the Government’s phase out dates – supply of vehicles, availability of charging infrastructure and consumer adoption. The phase-out dates are realistic and can be achieved if progress is made in each of these three areas.

 

Supply of vehicles - The proposed ZEV Mandate is a positive step but needs to be implemented as soon as possible to provide a clear direction to manufacturers and ensure there is sufficient supply of a range of electric vehicles into the UK. Whilst supply and choice of electric cars is improving there are still challenges around electric vans.

 

Charging infrastructure - Similarly, there has been positive progress in charging infrastructure with growth in rapid and ultra rapid charging provision, but this growth needs to further accelerate as EV adoption ramps up. From Zipcar’s perspective the provision of rapid and ultra rapid charge points is key to our electrification plans. From an operational perspective we need to be able to re-charge our vehicles quickly, so they are available for our members to rent. From a customer perspective, car sharing is a pay per use model. Given members are effectively paying while they are re-charging this needs to be as quick as possible. Further investment in rapid and ultra-rapid charging infrastructure in cities in addition to the continued focus on major A-road and motorway is needed to provide confidence to consumers to drive EV adoption.

There is currently a difference in VAT rates for home charging versus on-street charging. This means that those that don’t have access to home charging are paying more to charge their vehicles. Removing this inequality to ensure everyone pays the same VAT rate regardless of where they charge, would further support the phase-out dates.

 

Consumer adoption - There has been a significant increase in the percentage of new vehicles purchased which are electric. In August 2023 for example, 20.1% of new vehicle sales were Battery Electric Vehicles (1). However, for many electric vehicles are still unaffordable. This is where alternatives to vehicle ownership can play a role. Zipcar has over 1,000 electric vehicles in its fleet currently and since we introduced our first EV in 2018 over 130,000 members have driven an EV with us. Car sharing makes access to electric vehicles affordable and accessible for all. There are further benefits from promoting greater use of car clubs in achieving the UK’s net zero targets. In addition to the switch to electric we also need to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and the number of miles driven. Car sharing is proven to do this. According to the latest research from CoMoUK (2), for every car club vehicle in the UK, 22 private vehicles (up to 29 vehicles in London) are removed from our roads – either through sales or deferred purchases. In addition, switching to car sharing and giving up a private car drives more sustainable transport choices, with car club members driving fewer miles per year as well as walking, cycling, and using public transport more.

 

To further drive the growth of the sector and support the Government’s phase-out plans, we recommend that car sharing is placed at the heart of transport policy, to ensure the switch to electric is affordable and accessible for all, and that it delivers a reduction in the number of vehicles on our roads.

 

  1. What specific national policies, regulations or initiatives have been successful, or have hindered, EV adoption to date? Are these policies or initiatives fit for purpose?

 

The proposed ZEV Mandate should help ensure supply of electric vehicles into the UK and it is encouraging to see that the benefits of car clubs have been recognised in the proposals with additional credits provided for vehicles supplied into the sector.

 

However, it remains to be seen in practice how effective this will be given the size of the UK car sharing fleet. As of December 2022, there were just under 6,000 car sharing vehicles in the UK, significantly fewer than the 17,000 electric vehicles sold in the UK in August 2023 alone (1).

 

Places like Germany have significantly more car sharing operators with significantly more vehicles, more members using car clubs and are electrifying more quickly than we are. 10 years ago, London was one of the leading car club cities in the world. According to a recent report, by the Clean Cities Campaign (3), London now lies 24th amongst 42 major European cities for its electric car club provision. Four other UK cities appear in the report and are ranked lower than London.

 

Despite this as a sector, we are electrifying more quickly. 14% of the UK car club fleet is currently fully electric. That compares to about 2% of the wider UK market (2).

 

To ensure this continued growth and investment in electric vehicles by the sector, more needs to be done to promote alternatives and encourage car club investment in EV’s. For example, providing car clubs with grants to buy EV’s similar to the retention of the plug-grant for taxis, or dedicated charge point access for car club vehicles, as well as a review of the impact of the additional credits for car club fleets in the ZEV Mandate if and when it is implemented to see if further credits are needed to drive sales into the sector.

 

16. What is the value and role of alternative transport models such as car clubs and micro mobility vehicles in the Government achieving the 2030 phase out date, and how should the Government consider their roles and opportunities for use in transport decarbonisation?

 

We believe car clubs have a significant role to play in the Government achieving its 2030 phase out date. Car clubs are the most affordable way to access an electric vehicle. At Zipcar, a third of our fleet is already electric. Our electric cars are priced the same as a petrol vehicle and are very popular - over 2 million trips have been taken in our electric vehicles. We have already had over 130,000 members drive an EV with us. Car clubs on average also save their users on average £3,000 per year.

 

Car clubs are now moving to the mainstream with over 750,000 members UK wide, with London leading the way with 670,000 members (4). By enabling people to make the shift to car sharing, we are delivering a double-win for the environment - less cars, and cleaner vehicles. And given the cost-of-living challenges, car clubs also provide one of the most affordable ways to deliver the Government’s 2030 targets.

 

Decarbonisation isn’t just a case of switching from the combustion engine to an EV, it should also be about reducing the number of cars, and also how often and how far we drive. According to research by CoMo, every car club in the UK removes 22 privately owned cars; and 37% of car club members used a bike at least once a week compared to an England average of 15%. Similarly, 48% used a bus at least once per week and 43% used a train or tram at least once per week, compared to a national average in England of 16% and 5% respectively (2).

 

Our members love driving our EV’s but the one challenge we have is members having the confidence to take longer trips in EV’s driven by availability and access to fast charging infrastructure.

CoMo research has shown that 91% of users were satisfied or very satisfied with driving the electric car club vehicles (2).

 

However, Zipcar market research has also identified: that members' biggest concern is still how long the battery lasts for in an electric vehicle - 44% don’t believe the battery lasts as long as they like, according to the figures by OnePoll, commissioned by Zipcar. This is why having more rapid charging points is going to be key to build confidence amongst consumers.

 

The potential for car club growth is significant, which if this were realised with the right policy support could enable even greater access to affordable electric vehicles. CoMo has forecast that 647,812 households in London alone could make the switch and substitute at least one of their private cars with a car club vehicle which could take 300,000 privately owned cars off the road and drive 340 million less car miles per year (5).

 

The potential for the UK would be even greater if this level of growth were to be achieved outside of London and in other cities across the UK.

 

Given the potential impact that car clubs can have, both in terms of access to electric vehicles and in the wider context of decarbonisation, we believe that car clubs should form a more central part of the Government’s decarbonisation plans.

33. What role do you see local authorities playing in delivering the 2030 phase out target, particularly in relation to planning regulations, charge points and working with District Network Operators? How can the government best support local authorities in their roles?

 

Local authorities could reduce or remove parking permit fees for electric car club vehicles until at least 2027 to support further electrification of the car club fleet in the UK. Alongside this a standardised car club procurement framework which recognises best practice, to simplify the process to implement new car club locations would also support further growth of the sector. These together would help address the fact London and other cities political and policy structures makes operating complex and costly to operate in. Over the past 3 years three car club operators left London, citing these complexities as one of the reasons.

 

We are beginning to see more local authorities set targets for car club growth, for example, Lambeth have a vision for having an electric car club on every street, other boroughs such as Lewisham and Hackney also have growth plans. If the Government were to have a clear growth strategy for car clubs across the UK, this would provide the leadership necessary to replicate these borough examples of best practice across the UK. This would create the policy platform and support needed to enable car clubs to form a key role in delivering the Government’s 2030 phase out target.

 

References:

 

1. https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/

2. https://www.como.org.uk/documents/car-club-annual-report-uk-2022

3. https://cleancitiescampaign.org/thank-you-for-sharing/

4. https://www.como.org.uk/documents/car-club-annual-report-london-2022

5. https://www.como.org.uk/documents/driving-london-forward-full