By Zipcar UK
2020 has been a challenging year for many businesses, including the transport sector. Our focus has been about continuing to provide our members (consumers and businesses) with access to vehicles when they need them. We are really proud that we have been able to support essential trips during lockdown, and of doing our bit to help businesses keep running during difficult times.
As lockdown measured began to ease, businesses have been re-evaluating their resources and whether they need to own a vehicle. Zipcar can help with a more sustainable and cost-effective solution for many companies. We’ve seen a growth in businesses needing transport for deliveries and commuting; for both of these private ownership would be very costly, but Zipcar for Business has been able to give them an easy, flexible option by only paying for the vehicle when they need it.
The nation’s also seen an increase in ‘staycations’ due to pandemic concerns, which in turn has led to increased demand for our vehicles during the summer period. To adapt, we’ve changed our processes to provide members with more reassurance when booking, increased our cleaning protocols including increasing the frequency of cleans for all our vehicles.
Despite operational challenges throughout lockdown, we’ve continued to grow, and in particular grow Flex: the part of our service that offers one-way trips. In July we added our 13th Flex Borough, Hammersmith and Fulham, to our list of boroughs members can pick up and drop off a car from, and have seen a great pick up of trips to and from the area. By adding more boroughs, we are continuing to provide and increase flexibility for businesses as it allows for one-way trips across Central London and Heathrow.
What’s Changed in the Last Few Years in the Car-Sharing Industry?
Over the past few years there has been some great developments in the carsharing industry that benefit consumers and businesses alike. While fixed-bay vehicles have been around for some time, the introduction of free-floating car-sharing, such as Zipcar Flex (one-way trips) launched in 2017, has allowed the user to pick and choose the right transport solution for them at that moment in time.
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Flex has been a significant part of Zipcar’s growth, but it’s also contributed to car-sharing in general becoming a better-known way of getting around our capital. By enabling users to ‘drive and drop’ across 13 London Boroughs through the click of a button in our app, it’s making people’s journeys easier and ultimately empowering them to make ever more sustainable transport choices.
These developments have meant there is far more choice for the user, which in turn has led to more companies entering the space and therefore more competition, although some have struggled to make their operations feasible in the UK resulting in them exiting the market earlier this year. However, Zipcar has been a leader in the carsharing space since we started (as Streetcar) back in 2000 and have seen continued growth every year.
How Has the Market Changed with Regards to Competition and How are Zipcar Coping?
In recent years the industry has grown massively, and as such so have the number of our competitors. It’s worth noting that there are different types of car-sharing operations, from traditional car-sharing (such as Zipcar, where we own, maintain and service the vehicles) to ‘peer to peer’, where users rent out their vehicles on various platforms for other users to drive. Zipcar has been and remains focused on looking after our owned fleet and providing the safest and best possible service for our members. From growing our Flex operations to providing access to more electric vehicles, we work closely with local councils and government bodies to be the best alternative to vehicle ownership.
We also have been continuing to support the businesses that use us by investing in our Zipcar for Business offering. We work with freelancers to national companies all of whom use our business service in different ways, but all of which enjoy the added support and discounted rates compared to our consumer offering.
With the Likes of Uber and FreeNow so Accessible, Why Should People Use Car-Sharing?
Car-sharing with Zipcar is just as accessible as ride-hailing: everything is done via an app and there’s plenty of choice of vehicles, usually within a 2-10-minute walk from your home or office. It’s worth noting too that our one-way Flex option is often described as a self-drive taxi, which means it’s ideal for trips you need to make last minute, or just getting from a to b. But it’s not just Flex or Roundtrips, we encourage users to choose the right option for them and their specific journey.
Many members choose us because they are in control of their trip: the route that is taken, how many stop-offs they can do, and save money compared to ride hail trips. The ability to control your environment whilst travelling has been very important to users, and never more so than this year.
Our key objective is to help people move away from the privately-owned vehicles. By providing access to a vehicle – whether car-sharing, ride-hailing, alongside other transport options, bike sharing, public transport it gives people confidence that they don’t need to own a vehicle to get around, which is better for the environment.
Where Do You See the Car-Sharing Industry Going in the Coming Years?
The pandemic caused less vehicles to be on our roads, with traffic on some of the busiest roads falling by 50%. What’s more, the government’s call to walk and cycle more was heeded by the public throughout the summer. This led to dramatic improvements in air quality as a result.
For this to continue post-pandemic there needs to be a continued reduction in car use. Perhaps surprisingly, car-sharing is well placed to help deliver this: research has shown time and again that people drive less as members of a car-sharing club than they do when owning a car.
I believe that in the coming years greater recognition of the role that car-sharing can play in changing people’s travel behaviour will come. Car sharing can enable a behavioural shift towards less private car ownership because it still provides access to car, whilst at the same time reducing reliance on it.
The financial impact of the pandemic is yet to be fully seen, and with this many businesses and consumers alike will be looking to save money, car ownership is a big cost for most, and a shift to a more flexible alternative like car-sharing should drive growth for us and other forms of car-sharing in the next few years.
What Next For Zipcar?
We have a vision to be running a fully electric fleet by 2025. We continue to work towards this, increasing the number of electric vehicles in our fleet and giving more members access to them as the infrastructure improves in the UK.
We will be continuing to grow both our Roundtrip and Flex services in the UK too. The planned expansion of ULEZ in October 2021 will be a key period where private owners may look for affordable alternatives. We will need to continue to grow to meet this demand when it happens.
How Can we Find You and get Started?
You can find a Zipcar on your road, outside your office or even in your local supermarket car park. To access our cars and vans you need to join as a member, which is free to do here: www.zipcar.com/en-gb . You’ll go through a few checks with our team and then once accepted you can download the app to book and unlock our vehicles. It’s really that simple to get started, all you will have to choose is whether you need a return Roundtrip or take a one-way Flex trip.
How do Businesses use Zipcar?
If you are a business then you’ll benefit from our Zipcar for Business membership. Here you can save up to 29% off our standard driving rates, and you get an account manager to help you whenever you need. You can get our business membership for free for the first year instead of £99 by joining here: www.zipcar.com/en-gb/business. Whether you need to make a delivery, get to a meeting, or need a solution to help your employees get to work, Zipcar’s got you covered. Simply speak to one of our friendly business team and they will help work out how best to help your business.
How did Zipcar Support the Community During Lockdown?
We were deemed an essential service by the government throughout 2020, and during lockdown we continued to support our community in various ways. We’ve been working with the NHS for years, but during that time we wanted to do more. So, we offered all NHS members up to 50% off their trips, meaning they could get to work safely and on their own terms. We also expanded our Zipzone to include Nightingale Hospital and supplied additional reduced rate vehicles to various Councils to help them to carry out new tasks that fell on them.
We also worked with our membership community, donating and discounting vehicles to different causes across London, from charities and food banks to grass roots Covid-relief groups. We continued to keep members updated and have since asked for our members input on naming our new cars, given away free driving credit to our key worker heroes and shared our local businesses to help them in their time of need.