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Private car sharing gaining ground throughout Europe

Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Vienna and Zurich. ZHAW School of Engineering students have examined mobility-related sharing concepts in these seven European cities. Their study shows that within an overarching trend towards a sharing economy, the sharing of private cars in particular is on the rise.

Grafik zeigt, dass Paris die meisten Fahrzeuge anbietet.
P2P car sharing services in seven European cities.

Peer-to-peer car sharing, or P2P car sharing for short, is based on a new sharing model. Providers offer online platforms to private users so they can share their vehicles with others. At least one such service exists in all seven cities examined in the study. The front runner is Paris, where there are five providers enabling more than 2,200 car owners to rent out their own vehicles to others through platforms created for this purpose. In Zurich, there has been just one provider to date with around 100 participants. The advantages of this system are obvious. “This way, instead of having your car sit in a parking spot creating costs, you can use it to make money”, says ZHAW student Christoph Sutter, who led the project jointly with his colleague, Wolfgang Thullen, in the Transportation Systems bachelor’s degree programme.

The P2P model vs. organised car sharing

In contrast to conventional car sharing, P2P platforms have easier access to the market in that there are no registration fees, and all platforms follow the “pay as you go” principle. This gives users a great deal of flexibility and enables the platforms to compete against organised car sharing and car rental services. On P2P platforms, the offerings seem to outweigh the demand. “This is a good thing, because the decisive factor for a potential user is whether there is a P2P rental car nearby”, explains Thomas Sauter-Servaes, Head of the Transportation Systems degree programme. In addition to the new P2P model, his students have also examined conventional car sharing services as well as bike sharing. In order to make a situational comparison of the services, they created eight different user groups based on specific types of mobility behaviour.

Rental bikes and public transport are the most affordable options for tourists

There is one user group in particular which may come to favour the P2P model over conventional car rental services. In all seven cities, families in need of a car for one week while on holiday can find better deals through P2P than through conventional car sharing. In contrast, for weekly shopping in Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Paris and Vienna, it is worth using conventional car sharing services, while in Berlin and Zürich, it is better to stick to P2P providers. Tourists on city trips are usually best off using bike sharing. “In most of the cities we looked at, touring a city by bicycle is cheaper than by public transport”, says Wolfgang Thullen. Public transport, in turn, is more affordable than car sharing. “Still, car sharing services are more attractive to tourist couples whose main priorities are comfort and being able to explore the surroundings.” The “free-floating” principle, meaning being able to return rental vehicles at a different location, is an additional factor contributing to the appeal of conventional car sharing services.


Dr. Thomas Sauter-Servaes, Head of the Transportation Systems degree programme, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone +41 (0) 58 934 71 77, e-Mail

Matthias Kleefoot, Public Relations, ZHAW School of Engineering,
phone +41 (0) 58 934 70 85, e-Mail