The automotive industry invests heavily in various technologies, including electrification and hydrogen fuel cells. This is to reduce emissions and address air pollution concerns. There are many ways to clean up the environment. Many players don’t just focus on vehicles but on how people use them.
The popularity of shared mobility has increased rapidly over the years. It offers an alternative to private ownership or public transport. The convenience and affordability of shared mobility schemes such as car-sharing, ride-hailing, and carpooling attract many people. However, there is also an environmental benefit. Most people know that if you have more people in one car, you reduce overall emissions. But how much?
The numbers are growing
This depends on many factors, including how many people share mobility. BlaBlaCar has closely followed this segment over the past 15 years. BlaBlaCar decided to examine the environmental impact of its carpooling network, which surpassed 70 million people in 22 countries last year. BlaBlaCar’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Nicolas Brusson told M.bility, “We thought it would great to validate something that we never had before.” “Intuitively, we knew that more people would be in cars. But we never had the numbers to prove it.”
BlaBlaCar offers long-distance carpooling. Drivers often offer a place in their car for people traveling between cities. On average, the journey covers 200-300 kilometers. BlaBlaLines was launched in 2017 to help with shorter trips such as the daily commute. Brusson stated that commuting is the real Holy Grail of carpooling. “That’s where traffic, CO2 emissions, and driving alone are the greatest problems.”
France is the home market for the company. 13.5 million people drive to work daily, but only 1.08 people per car. Although the number of carpoolers is small, it could have huge long-term benefits. As more people move to the suburbs, their commutes become longer. Recent research in Paris showed that the average commute time by car has increased thrice over the past 40 years. The region’s emissions could be halved if every car could carry twice as many passengers.
The CO2 findings
Cars are currently responsible for around 12 percent of the EU’s total CO2 emissions. Brusson stated that the car is one of our biggest tools in reducing CO2 emissions from transport. “We can solve this problem by making the car more shareable,” Brusson said.
BlaBlaCar teamed with Le BIPE to determine how much CO2 was saved annually by its carpooling community. Over 12 months, the partners analysed real usage data of 6,884 BlaBlaCar members from eight countries. They found that carpooling saved 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018. This is equivalent to six months of traffic in Berlin or 5,000 football pitches worth of CO2 saved by carpooling.
This is only the beginning. With shared mobility, the savings will continue to grow. BlaBlaCar projects that by 2023 its users will be able to save 6.4 million tonnes CO2 annually.
Brusson explained that one of the reasons we did the study was to understand all the levers at work, and to conduct a CO2 study on the network. This objective study, like all other studies, revealed both the pros and the cons of carpooling. BlaBlaCar users are more likely to have their own car for specific trips, which is a plus. Some may not have traveled at all. Low-cost travel will increase demand and encourage more car trips, which is a concern. Brusson admitted that there are some negative effects. These negative impacts are offset by the positive, which is people who don’t drive their car.
The EU regulators are acutely aware of the negative impact that transport emissions have on air quality and global warming. They have set tough targets for light vehicles over the coming years. Automakers must reduce their average fleet CO2 by 40% by 2021, compared to 2007. Although the regulatory environment has been focused on vehicle emissions, it has mostly ignored vehicle use.
Brusson stated that the key to promoting shared mobility is creating a regulatory environment that encourages it, through tax relief and carpool lanes. There are many options, but not all of them are well-coordinated. There have been discussions in France, but the situation varies from one country to another, and sometimes even from region to region.