In this lecture I would like to talk about
collaborative consumption and the sharing economy. The basic idea of collaborative consumption
is that there are resources that we as individuals own and/or control that have excess capacity
and are underutilized as a result, and because of our inability to share easily we buy far
more capacity generally speaking than we need just in order to make sure that we have access
to the services that we need when we want them. So, this sharing is hard. We will over
buy our resources and we’ll over subscribe to make sure that we are never without a resource
that we want. So, let’s ground this with a particular example, and this example will
be a Zipcar. Some of you might be familiar with Zipcar. The basic idea of Zipcar comes
from the observation that a typical car sots idle almost 23 hours out of the day so the
folks who founded Zipcar thought huh, what if instead of having that car sit idle we
just shared the cars so that those 23 hours were being used rather than just sitting around
creating capacity in cars that we weren’t using? Well, we could own less cars, we could
get greater efficiency out of the cars that we do own, we can create a community, and
we can do something that creates a more sustainable environment for everyone. Well, that’s basically
what Zipcars ideals are. When you want a car you use some technology, you use their app
or you use a website to reserve the car online. When it comes time for you to use it you take
a physical RFID card key and you use it to unlock the car by waving it on a sensor on
the windshield of most cars. Waving it on the windshield causes it to unlock. You drive
it around for the period that you reserved it. Zipcar pays for the insurance, they pay
for the gas, they pay for the cleaning, they pay for maintenance, they pay for parking
at the spot at which the Zipcar resides at the pickup point, and when you’re done you
return the car to the location in good order and voila, you’ve eliminated your need to
own your own car if you live anywhere near where a Zipcar is available. So, it turns
out that I am one of those people. I’m in a family of 6 people. We have one car. For
any extra car capacity that we need I use car sharing in a particular Zipcar. This is
great because although that one car that we have gets used pretty often, more than 1 hour
a day because it’s not used for communing, it’s used for running kids around all over
the place and doing errands and I rarely need another car, but occasionally I do and fortunately
I live in a location where there are probably 6 or 7 Zipcars within walking distance, and
probably 15 if I’m willing to ride my bike to pick up a car. So, I’ll often use car
sharing in order to augment the car capacity of our family. Well, to make this work of
course there are a lot of details that need to be attended to. For example, how do you
pay for the car? How do you as a consumer who is part of the Zipcar environment pay
for it? Well, in Zipcar’s case it’s hourly. That isn’t always the case with car sharing
organizations. Who is going to clean and maintain these cars? They are all over the place and
it’s hard to get to sometimes, and they need to be cleaned and well maintained in
order for people to want to use them. So, it turns out that in Zipcar’s case they outsource
this to 3rd party companies that are sort of unbranded, In fact, I’ve come across
them a few times servicing the car and they kind of reminded me of like magic elves that
come and scrub the car, and change the oil, and do all kinds of things you need in the
dark of night. What happens when you get in an accident? What happens if you don’t return
the car on time? There are a lot of details but Zipcar has managed to finesse a lot of
them, and for the most part this whole arrangement works pretty well, surprisingly well actually.
They reasonably estimate that owning a car costs about $8000.00 a year. They have a calculator
online that you can go check for your particular circumstances how much car owning costs. So,
they estimate that it costs about $8000.00 a year, and depending on how often you need
the Zipcar it can cost you about a $1000.00 instead to use Zipcar. Their calculator is
very good for figuring out if it’s an economic decision for you, although economics may not
be the only thing that’s motivating you. Convenience, environmental impact and credit
may all be issues that prevent you from owning your own car or wanting to participate in
Zipcar. So, although it’s not a perfect analogy you can consider Zipcar to be like
an hourly car rental arrangement. In addition to the economics reasons there are other reasons
why you might want to share, and this screen shot sort of points to some of those. You
can imagine that the economic impact of having 21 cars for 20 families meaning one car per
family and then one Zipcar instead of having 40 cars for 20 families so 2 cars per family,
that’s pretty big. So, the impact of what Zipcar can do in reducing the car ownership
is pretty substantial depending on how you use your cars. Well, not surprisingly Zipcar
isn’t the only car sharing service that’s out there. It turns out that there are quite
a few of them internationally and in the U.S., and each of them kind of have their own unique
model for their take on what car sharing looks like. Car2Go is an example of another car
sharing service. This is a car service that eliminates the idea of having a parking space.
With Car2Go you can just park the car anywhere that it is legal and walk away. Someone else
who wants to use the car is just going to pick it up from where it’s currently parked,
or Car2Go people will reposition it into a more distributive location. This is a way
of keeping cars in the environment and not necessarily having a specific place where
they live. When you see bike sharing it kind of works this way. It used to in Portland
Oregon. Another type of car sharing is called ZEV-NET. ZEV-NET manages zero emission vehicles,
pure electric vehicles, and they keep them at commuter rail stations. Person 1 drives
to the train station in a ZEV-NET car and takes the train to work, whereas person 2
arrives at the train station and takes the car that person 1 drove to the station and
person 2 takes it from the station to their work. At the end of the day person 2 takes
the car back to the train station, and person 1 takes the car home at night. It’s an interesting
take on using commuter trains when you have people that are going opposite directions
and would otherwise need some way of getting to and from the train station on their own.

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