The Benefits of Closed Loop Car Sharing - Interview with Emily Kerr of ShareOurCars
Noticed a lot of cars lying idle on your street since the pandemic changed commuting habits? Thinking of getting rid of your car because it’s gathering dust nowadays, but the need for occasional access to one is stopping you from doing so? Noticed your neighbour not using their second car? Well, a community in Oxford has put closed loop neighbourhood car sharing through Hiyacar to the test, and we’ve spoken to the brains behind the trial to show you that it could benefit your community too!
Last month, September 2021, saw the launch of an exciting collaboration between Hiyacar and Oxford-based neighbourhood car sharing group, ShareOurCars. This group, and those that wish to share or borrow cars on their street, are able to share their cars only between themselves, through a closed loop. Only those that are a part of the trial can search for and book the cars available in their loop, through the Hiyacar app. By using Hiyacar as their platform for their community car sharing, they’re also benefiting from our bespoke car sharing insurance policy, automated driver verification and efficient app-based booking technology.
Here at Hiyacar, we’ve loved being updated on how the trial has been going and all the unexpected positives that have come from it, and we really want to share them with you! We spoke to Emily Kerr, at ShareOurCars, about when and why she decided closed loop car sharing would be great for her community and the effects it has had so far!
Where did the idea of closed loop car sharing come from?
I looked outside my window and saw just how many cars were on the streets not being used. Cars are great, but they’re also expensive and bad for the environment, so it seemed like they could be more efficiently used. I thought that there wasn’t much stopping people lending them to each other in my neighbourhood other than someone organising it to happen. I then did a bit of research online and found that there were already car sharing companies, like Hiyacar, and local community car clubs, but no one had put the two together.
Before, and at the beginning of the Iffley Fields closed network car sharing trial, were there many in your community that were interested? Or any locals that were skeptical - if so, what fears did they have?
I got around 30 comments on my neighbourhood facebook, and about 45 responses to a survey I sent asking people if they were interested. Almost all were positive - I think people understand that it would be better for everyone if there were fewer cars, and the people who need to use one are quite keen to share the costs! Insurance was definitely the no.1 concern of everyone - there were a lot of ‘what if…?’ questions.
Over the course of the trial so far, what have been some unexpected positives or benefits?
One unforeseen benefit has been just how much fun it’s been borrowing and loaning cars from neighbours. Everyone says that. We feel like we’re part of a community activity doing something positive, and that’s enjoyable. Also we’ve all got to meet new people in our streets, and people of different ages and life stages which has been extra fun.
Another benefit for me has been how much my kids enjoyed it! I really wasn’t expecting that. They much prefer borrowing other cars to using ours, and they talk a lot about the red Peugeot with the funny music, or the grey Honda with the automatic engine stopping system. Finally, I’ve travelled a lot less by car. I’ve still had one whenever I needed it, but have often chosen to cycle instead. I honestly feel a lot fitter.
Has the QuickStart vehicle or the in-person key handovers, been more successful in Iffley Fields?
100% in-person key handovers. We all live very closely - part of the point of the closed loop - so it’s really easy to drop keys through each others’ letterboxes, which is how we mostly do it. Even the pub got involved - they’ve offered to keep keys behind the bar if it’s ever needed.
What would you tell any other communities wanting to trial their own closed network car sharing loop?
Do it your own way! I’ve been contacted by a lot of people looking to set up their own networks, and often they’re for different reasons. E.g. we actually have a shared Zipcar in my area, the problem is it’s often unavailable. There are other places though which don’t have any car-clubs yet - that’s a great space to launch a loop.
I’m thinking of helping a friend start another loop in the wider area - for musicians! Seems a lot of them are quite keen to not own cars, but they often get late notice for gigs and need to drive somewhere. If there were enough shared cars in the musician community in Oxford, they wouldn’t need to all own their own.
How have you been getting the message out there and letting the community know about the trial?
I posted on our Facebook, and sent to a couple of street WhatsApps. We have a fairly active community so I also put a stall outside my house and sat there during our street jumble-sale (this involved multi-tasking as the kids were also selling bath-bombs on the same stall in aid of their school). I printed a leaflet and put it through letterboxes.
If anyone’s interested in setting up their own loop, you’re very welcome to get in touch with me. I had so many questions I’ve set up a website - www.shareourcars.com
Have any of the community expressed a desire to give up their car now, to just rely on those in the car sharing trial? Was this hoped for when you began the trial?
Me! I’m going to give up our car. I wasn’t thinking of doing this at the start of the trial but it’s become so obvious to me that I can easily sell it and use the local loop cars instead.
I did a month-long trial where I rented my car out but didn’t use it, and only used my neighbours cars. I calculated that my car costs around £300 per month including depreciation, insurance, emissions tax, petrol etc and my month’s spend on Hiyacar was only £88. Yes, I cycled and took the bus more (you tend to without a car outside your house), but even so, it was an astonishing saving.
We’re going to all buy ourselves a treat when we sell the car - my husband is getting an e-bike and I’m going to take the whole family to Paris.
Finally, has the trial so far been used more so by those who had previously relied on public transport; by those who perhaps have one shared car per household and don’t have access to this as much as they need or otherwise?
The surprising thing for me has been that several people have used it because they’ve had mechanical problems with their car! But also I think people are trying to use their cars less, experimenting with what life would be like without a car.
For more information on this closed loop trial, see ShareOurCars website.