News that Sir Stelios, the founder of easyJet and Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com, are to re-launch the car rental firm easyCar, could be great news for the environment.
The new scheme the pair is planning isn’t just a car rental company (though it will be that, too). Instead, it copies an innovative American idea that involves us all renting out each other’s cars.
Have you ever stopped to think just how many cars are standing idle at any one time – particularly in major cities; and how much value there is in the vehicles doing nothing for most of the time? A new car offers temptation and excitement, but also a huge cost in money terms and in congestion and environmental damage.
But the pair’s plans could be great for the environment and for inner city congestion if we can be bold enough as a society to really take it up.
The new scheme will be trialled in London during the first half of 2012 and will allow people to book their neighbours’ cars by the hour via their smartphones.
As Sir Stelios pus it: “Rather than having to buy the cars to be rented and pay the ownership costs, this business model relies on the fact that there are plenty of under-used cars on the road already, and that is lazy capital that can be put to work again.”
A similar company called Zipster already runs a scheme like this in the States. Zipster reckons there are around 10 million drivers living within a ten minute walk of a Zipcar vehicle and that the vehicle cost savings per household can be around $7,000 a year. There are currently 8,200 members of the scheme across 15 US cities and 230 universities.
Whether this is just the beginning of a rapid explosion as car sharing takes off on a massive scale – or just another good idea destined to fail remains to be seen.
But let’s hope it’s the former. In many ways, the success or failure of the scheme will come down to human nature. If people use it to its full extent and are fair and proper in their behaviour in doing so, for a better collective society, it could work.
And there is hope. The increasing demand for the kind of eco cars UK consumers are looking for shows the level of societal concern out there. But if people are selfish and behave unreasonably, it may not.
Either way, ‘hats off’ to the pair for trying!