Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Carplus Trust


  1.1  Carplus is the national charity promoting responsible car use. The main focus of the organisation's work is the promotion, development and support of car clubs within a context of other supportive demand management measures. By facilitating access to a car when it is the most appropriate mode of travel for a given journey the presence of a car club enables individuals, households and businesses to give up ownership of privately owned vehicles and makes the alternative choices more transparent and understandable.

  1.2  Car clubs are proven to reduce the environmental impact of the private car. Data from overseas is now being replaced from that found in UK car clubs to demonstrate a cut in mileage driven by car club members, a corresponding increase in use of public transport along with more walking and cycling.

  1.3  Through a national programme, developing a national network of car clubs, fully integrated with public transport, significant carbon (and other GHG) emissions could be achieved at a relatively low cost and in a relatively short time scale.


  2.1  Car clubs come in a range of shapes and sizes. From small community groups to large commercially run operations, car clubs provide access to a car without the need to own one. They are a form of short term, community or workplace based, easy access car hire.

  2.2  Car clubs enable individuals and households to retain the benefits of a car when it is needed, without the hassle and expense of owning one. When used by businesses they enable substantial cost savings to be made through the reduction of the company pool fleet and the personal mileage allowances paid for private car use.

  2.3  Once an individual or corporate member has joined the car club, the vehicle can be booked on-line, by telephone or from within the car for as short a period as thirty minutes, up to a few days hire. The car is unlocked using a smart card, and a PIN is required to switch off the vehicle immobiliser. In some instances organisations may block book one or more cars for the working day, thus ensuring access to their employees as required.


  3.1  Outline

  3.1.1  Car clubs have grown in the UK from a standing start in 1998 to a current position of 30 car clubs across the country with 6,000 members using 300 cars. New clubs will be launched in several cities during this year. The great majority of these clubs have been established with support from Carplus—and funded through one or other public source. Car clubs will continue to grow slowly and steadily if there is no further intervention from local or national government. However to ensure the carbon benefits are maximised as speedily as possible the managed growth of a national network is essential.

  3.1.2  The network will see an investment in the infrastructure through promoting integrated telematics in the vehicles (with potential tie-ins to Road User Charging and Pay-as-you-drive insurance) and also through provision of appropriate parking bays for the vehicles. It will be established by a team of officers building strategic partnerships with key national industries and also with local and regional stakeholders.

  3.1.3  The proposed network will deliver extensive coverage of the UK within a four year period. The anticipated membership at the end of that period is 200,000 users. However, once established, the car club network will continue to recruit users at little or no cost to the Government. Carplus calculates that the one million mark will be reached by 2015.

  3.2  Benefits

  3.2.1  The benefits of the national network include a reduction in congestion and parking requirements, increased public transport patronage and health gains through higher take up of walking and cycling. Car clubs, when introduced into workplace and residential travel plans also enhance the benefits achieved by these measures. There is an additional benefit of increasing access to a car for those suffering transport poverty. This arguably has the potential for undermining the other benefits, though in reality this is usually slight and is a matter of social justice.

  3.2.2  The main benefit for the purpose of this memorandum is the potential cut in carbon emissions and will be examined in the following section.

  3.3  Constraints

  3.3.1  The constraints on the development of the national network are real. Key amongst them is the lack of resources to build the network. Carplus estimates that a one-off investment in the region of £20 million-£25 million over a four year period will ensure the network will be developed. This amount is less than the sum needed to widen the M1 by one lane along a mile of its length.

  3.3.2  Tackling the financial constraint will enable other obstacles to be overcome. Carplus have frequently played the role of honest broker—bringing together the stakeholders in a location to assess the potential and to deliver the club. The requirement of suitable parking locations is a further difficulty in development of a club, and the resources to fund the necessary TRO/TMO processes will help resolve problems encountered in this process.

  3.3.3  A second constraint is the attitude to the car. Unlike many initiatives in demand management car clubs are not perceived to be a threat to car users. They are not an "anti-car" measure. Paradoxically they effect a reduction in car use through the provision of vehicles. Nevertheless in the UK, as elsewhere in the world, the ambition to own a car, and to own successively better cars, is high. This aspirational constraint can be lessened by the introduction of a range of vehicles in a car club fleet, alongside an information programme outlining the benefits of vehicle usage as opposed to ownership.


  4.1  The potential for reducing carbon emissions from car use is significant, and is achieved through a combination of two complementary consequences of car clubs.

  4.2  Mileage reduction.

  4.2.1  Data already collected in the UK show an average reduction in mileage driven by car club users to be in the region of 40%. Further information indicates that in some cases the reduction amongst members is moving towards the EU figures of 70%. This is achieved through a combination of modal shift, and journey reductions. The carbon savings are further enhanced by evidence that car club journeys are on average longer than privately owned journeys, thus reducing the proportion of "cold engine" driving, with its higher emissions. Further carbon savings are achieved through the replacement of older poorly maintained vehicles with modern, well maintained, and possibly environmentally fuelled vehicles.

  4.2.2  Carplus have calculated, on mileage reduction alone, that with 200,000 members in four years the carbon saving will be at least 102,000 tonnes (178,000 using EU reduction figures). By 2015 Carplus expects the carbon savings to be between 510,000 (UK) and 893,000 (EU) tonnes of carbon per annum. This will be a year on year saving at no further cost to the public purse.

  4.3  Fleet reduction.

  4.3.1  Additional carbon reductions can be achieved through the reduction of the private car fleet. Data in the UK indicates that for each car club vehicle placed the privately owned fleet is reduced by 5.5 vehicles. At present the actual carbon savings in respect to the embodied carbon for this reduction is not available, though Carplus is undertaking research, funded by Defra, to ascertain the whole lifecycle carbon reductions through implementing car clubs.


  5.1  The carbon reduction targets set by the UK government are laudable, and the contribution attempted by the Department of Transport in reducing total vehicle emissions is a step on the way to mitigating some of the worst impacts of global warming.

  5.2  There are a number of complementary steps that should be pursued, including increased investment in technological improvements in fuel and engines, and the introduction of demand management tools such as Road User Charging.

  5.3  The purpose of this memorandum is to demonstrate that establishing a national network of car clubs has the potential to realise significant reductions in carbon emissions from vehicles at a relatively low cost and in a relatively short time frame.

  5.4  In producing this memorandum Carplus have aimed for brevity at the expense of detail. The organisation is very happy to provide more detailed evidence and to arrange a demonstration of a working car club if required.

February 2006

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