Christchurch is the 3rd most populated urban area in New Zealand with more than 400.000 inhabitants. Located in the South Island, this city has been damaged by several massive earthquakes in 2011 and 2016 that severely affected the economy of this area. Rebuilding the city was the opportunity for local authorities to make it one of the most innovative and sustainable cities in the country. To do so, the council has set the target to become the first carbon neutral city in New Zealand by 2030.
Due to its geographical isolation, New Zealand economy need to import a lot of products to insure its way of life. Especially, the country has a clear dependence to gas, cars and electronics importations. It becomes harder to buy a new car or a second hand one. Because of the stretched configuration of the city, distances are long that is why the local way of life encourage the car using. Moreover, it appears that public transports are expensive and not optimized so not really used. Therefore, Christchurch is looking for innovative solutions to become more sustainable, especially concerning transport which is a high improvement potential field.
One project on this topic is Yoogo Share: first electric car sharing system in New Zealand. We met one team member of this startup who is working on its development in Christchurch.
The Yogoo Share system combines two new ideas in New Zealand: electric cars and the sharing system. The use of electric cars is quite new in this country. It is expensive to buy a new electric car but it seems also interesting because of the kilometer cost difference between oil and electricity. Sharing systems for mobility are also not something common in the country. As New Zealanders used to drive their own car, this is an alternative to ownership and fossil fuels. The idea of taking part of a sharing system is to higher the using time rate which is generally very low, because people’s cars are most of the time in their garage or parked.
Today, the system counts more than 100 cars of different brands and 8 loading docks in Christchurch. The startup needed a starting investment of several million dollars to implement its solution and to test it. Yoogo Share obtained public subsidies and private investments from banks, because of the eco-friendly image of the project.
The classic process to drive a Yoogo Share car is quite simple. You first have to register on their website to get your Yoogo Share Member Card. This card allows you to unlock and lock cars. Whenever you want, you can make a booking on their app or website. Then, the price is about 15$ an hour. You can return the car in any hub you want. You just have to put again the loading cable to refill the battery.
Today, the main target is business workers in the city center. It is economically advantageous and a flexible solution for companies because they don’t have to pay directly the car, the electricity and maintenance. However, this area is not residential anymore, only a business center, so there is no one in the evening or weekends. The company is looking for solutions to relocate stations where the people actually lives to optimize the using of the electric cars.
One of the biggest challenges for the startup is to change people’s habits concerning the mobility. That is why they organize regularly public events and free training sessions to present the sharing systems and to demystify electric vehicles. The goal is to show people the benefits of this solution such as on short term driving ease and savings, and on long term air quality improvement and congestion reduction.
WHAT NOW ?
Yoogo Share wants to keep developing the sharing system and let it more known by other types of customer, like residential people. The company started to implement loading docks and cars in Auckland. The problem is until now, the cars hubs are only inside of car parks… The company does not have any legal agreement yet to park their cars in the street. As a result, the majority of urban people don’t even know this system. They need to find a solution to get the cars off the car parks to make this system much known.
For now, there is no competitor on this market in New Zealand. They now seem to need diversifying their user targets and broadening their reputation to ensure a profound change in drivers’ habits.
From a wider angle of view, it is clear that New Zealand has a high potential of renewable electricity production which could be used to decrease fossil fuels consumption. But we can wonder if people and the market are ready to accept and encourage this deep habit change. However, is the electric car the solution for a sustainable mobility? The carbon footprint of an electric car depends mainly on the energy source, renewable or not, to generate the electricity. Even with a very low carbon footprint, how to judge the balance and the relevance of the ecological footprint especially with the destructives way the automobile industry use to extract minerals and to transform them?