Carsharing could help you get rid of your own car

Published: 20.5.2021 10.59Updated: 18.1.2022 7.10
Man standing in front of a shared car.
Photo: Pintaliitodesign

Experiments currently underway in Espoo provide housing companies with shared cargo bikes and cars. The electric cargo bike became an instant hit among children, while carsharing makes adults question the necessity of owning their own car.

“Out of the way!” someone shouts in Otsonkallio, Tapiola, as a group of children speed downhill on a walkway in the front box of a brand-new cargo bike.

The spanking new Babboe Curve Mountain cargo bike available in the housing company’s bike room is frequently taken out on test rides. The bike, in shared use of the residents, climbs up the steep hill leading to the housing company’s yard effortlessly, despite the four children sitting in the front.

Photo: Petja Partanen

“It has the most powerful motor on the market,” says Ville Voltti, the chair of the housing company board and the driving force behind the bike experiment.

Voltti quickly talks new cargo cyclists through the use of the new ride: he explains how the gears and the parking brake work, how the bike is booked using an online reservation system and how the key box in the bike room is opened with a mobile phone. The aim of the three-month experiment is clear.

“Our goal is to find a pricing model that would allow the residents to acquire the bike for their permanent use,” Voltti says.

The Otsonkallio cargo bike is one of the experiments launched in spring 2021 by the City of Espoo in cooperation with various companies with the goal of finding sharing economy models for joint-use vehicles in Espoo neighbourhoods.

Housing company car replaces personal cars

Carsharing is currently being experimented in three blocks of flats owned by Espoon Asunnot. Since March 2021, shared cars have been available in the parking lots of three properties: Markkinakatu and Matinkallio in Matinkylä and Komentajankatu in Perkkaa.

“All three cars have dozens of registered users,” says Joel Virpi, CEO at Omago Oy, the company that supplies the cars.

A shared car covers the needs of occasional motorists in particular. In some housing companies, the utilisation rate of Omago cars is already around 30 per cent, which means that the car is driven 8 hours a day.

“This means that the car replaces several private cars. Personal vehicles typically stand parked 97–98 per cent of the time,” Joel Virpi says.

At the moment, halfway through the three-month experiment, the shared cars of Espoon Asunnot are not yet in such active use. It usually takes people some time to find a new way of getting around.  However, user statistics show that in April, the most active user of the experiment drove the shared car almost daily.

One of the registered users of the Omago car at Matinkallio 8 is Timo Vuorelma. Although Vuorelma owns both his own car and a motorcycle, the housing company car also came in handy.

“My car was out of service for over a month,” Vuorelma says.

The car’s booking application shows that Vuorelma has used the shared car on seven trips, ranging in duration from half an hour to five hours. The longest trip was to Lahti and back.

Vuorelma had no previous experience with carsharing, but his first experience was a positive one. The car was available whenever he needed it.

“Other people have now started to use the car as well; I see it on the road every day,” Vuorelma says.

From a pilot to a part of daily life

The group gathered to witness the test ride of the Otsonkallio bike confirms that the cargo bike can replace a passenger car on many trips. It can accommodate both the shopping and the children, and the electric motor makes cycling uphill a breeze. One resident asks Ville Volti if their nanny is also allowed to use the bike. The answer is yes.

“The bike can be booked for up to 12 hours at a time and it must be brought home for the night,” Voltti says.

The residents of the building were already familiar with an electric cargo bike, as the housing company took part in a similar experiment a couple of years ago. At the time, the experimented bike was popular among the residents, but in the end, they could not agree on whether the bike should be acquired and how its maintenance would be organised.

The solution offered by Vapaus Bikes is effortless, as the bike is accompanied with a ready-to-use booking system and the company is also responsible for maintaining the bike. At the end of the experiment, Vapaus Bikes, a supplier of corporate bikes, will make the housing company an offer for the future use of the cargo bike.

Once the experiment is over, Omago and Espoon Asunnot will also have a negotiation on whether the shared car could become a permanent feature of the residents’ mobility.  Joel Virpi says that housing company cars are a profitable business for the operator if the cars are in use for more than 100 hours a month. The number of users for the Espoon Asunnot cars is coming along nicely.

In addition to the housing company cars, this spring Omago has also brought to the streets of Espoo the so-called zone cars that anyone can take for a spin.

“Our zone cars are available in Espoon keskus, Leppävaara, Matinkylä and now also in Otaniemi,” Virpi says.

The housing company usually covers the basic fees for housing company cars, while zone cars are available to all residents of the area for a monthly fee of 30 euros. The monthly costs of owning a similar vehicle would amount to hundreds of euros, including loan payments, insurance policies, maintenance costs and the depreciation in the value of a new car.

Timo Vuorelma would not consider giving up his motorcycle, but a shared car might replace his car.

“I think it’s great. If the service gains ground, they could also offer different types of cars to suit different needs,” Vuorelma says.

At the moment, Vuorelma needs his own car to transport his dogs, but if there was a shared estate car available in his neighbourhood, giving up his own car would be a viable option.

Both pilots are a part of the Six-City Strategy (6Aika) KIEPPI project promoting circular and sharing economy in Espoo. Promoting circular economy is one way of cutting traffic emissions and making Espoo a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

“The pilots provide us with valuable information about the needs of city residents and the functionality of the services,” says Mia Johansson, a specialist in the KIEPPI project at the City of Espoo.

The cargo bike and shared car pilots are a part of the Six-City Strategy (6Aika) KIEPPI project that cooperates with various companies to develop new solutions that are based in circular and sharing economy in Espoo.