Round-Trip and One-Way in France and Japan: Conditions for EV carsharing markets take-off

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2019)


The concept of carsharing first appeared in the 1950s as a means to avoid high costs of car ownership (Communauto, n.d.; Shaheen & Cohen, 2007). In the late 1960s, Friedman (1972) identified advantages of sharing the use of a car in terms of reducing traffic congestion, parking space needs, travel costs and air pollution in peak periods, and promoting public transportation (PT) in regard to public or societal issues. This still appears relevant today. Feedback from the first experiments showed that carsharing services encouraged individuals to change their travel habits and reduce driven mileage (Shaheen, Cohen, 2013).
The idea of shared goods, rather than individual ownership, spread worldwide in the 2000s. Sharing cars, which are parked 23 hours a day, became an even more relevant choice, opening new business opportunities. Studying Carlink in the US, Shaheen (1999) stated that carsharing can “reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and government spending,” while the broad development of information and communication technologies (ICT) made carsharing less inconvenient and smart thanks to intelligent registration and reservation systems. This might explain why apart from many environmental associations which were and still are promoting carsharing, diverse companies are entering the sector, including car makers but also parking providers or rental businesses. This might also have contributed to renewed interest of local and national public bodies in supporting carsharing as a more sustainable mode of mobility.
Based on empirical observation and interviews with city officers and carsharing operators, the presentation aims to analyze the development of station-based carsharing in France and in Japan, which both came into the carsharing business relatively late. Carsharing can be station-based, in which cars are picked up and returned at on- or off-street stations. It can also be free-floating, in which cars can be picked up and returned anywhere in the city. While free-floating carsharing is a one-way service, station-based carsharing can be either round-trip, when cars have to be returned at the station they were picked-up, or one-way when cars can be returned at a station different from picked-up one. Given that free-floating carsharing is just starting in France (especially since Autolib stopped) and does not yet exist in Japan, this study only focuses on station-based carsharing.
Observing the respective evolution of round-trip and one-way markets in France and Japan, the presentation intends to analyze what are the conditions required for them to take off? Although remaining niche markets, car-sharing is increasing in both countries. But, due to differences in societal, policy, regulatory contexts, but also because of the perception of passenger transportation as commercial activity or as a public service, the respective development of round-trip and one-way in which use, operating costs, vehicles, and impact on car dependency are not the same, appears quite contrasted. Indeed, while commercial round-trip services grow fast in Japan, EVs one-way services do not take roots. At the opposite, France relies more on EVs one-way services eventually supported by local public authorities. Taking users demand into account and highlighting the different visions private and public actors have and how a cooperation between them helped – or not – to implement new services according to each social, institutional and regulatory context, the paper will contribute to a better understanding of the conditions but also of the limits of car-sharing broader development or in other terms of its capacity to substitute to car ownership.

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Friedman, D. (1972). Public vehicle rental system: Determination of feasibility. In: Selected Proceedings of a Conference on Methods and Concepts of Forecasting Travel Demand for Future Systems. Philadelphia: Transportation Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 49–74.
Shaheen, S. (1999). Carlink-A smart carsharing system. Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice,5(3), 121–128.
Shaheen, S., & Cohen, A. (2007). Growth in worldwide carsharing: an international comparison. Transportation Research Record, 1992, 81–89.
Shaheen, S., & Cohen, A. (2013). Carsharing and personal vehicle services: Worldwide market developments and emerging trends. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation,7, 5–34.

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