A new report from IoT analyst firm Berg Insight finds that most carsharing organisations today use station-based networks with roundtrip rental which requires users to return a vehicle to the same designated station from which it was accessed.
Another operational model that is rapidly gaining in popularity is free floating carsharing, which enables members to pick up and drop off cars anywhere within a designated area where parking is allowed.

Free floating carsharing services reached 40 000 cars on the streets serving 5,6-million members in 2017. Membership is forecast to reach 14,3-million using roughly 102 000 vehicles by year-end 2022.

The ability to access available cars instantly without prior booking or need to schedule return time make free floating carsharing attractive.

This operational model poses at the same time challenges for carsharing operators such as car fleet rebalancing across operating areas to guarantee availability, higher capital investments in car fleets as well as parking management.

“Free floating carsharing is now available in about 20 countries and roughly 55 cities worldwide,” says Martin Svegander, IoT analyst at Berg Insight.

Europe and North America so far represent the vast majority of free floating carsharing members worldwide.

“In Europe, free floating services accounted for more than 65 percent of the carsharing membership at year-end 2017,” Svegander adds.

Examples of additional markets that have introduced free floating carsharing services include Russia, China, New Zealand and Brazil.

Besides free floating carsharing schemes backed by the major carmakers BMW (DriveNow) and Daimler (Car2go), some specialist CarSharing Organisations (CSOs) in Europe and North America have also started to offer this operational model.

Examples of CSOs that offer free floating services include Enjoy in Italy, GreenMobility in Denmark and Evo Car Share in Canada. Recently, BMW and Daimler announced the merger of their mobility service businesses that is anticipated to create a leading venture that includes free floating carsharing services and other shared mobility services.

“Daimler’s Car2go was at year-end 2017 the clear market leader with close to 3-million members and BMW’s DriveNow had at the same time more than 1-million members,” says Svegander.