China’s sharing economy has been on the rise, following the rapid expansion of car-hailing services like Didi Chuxing and bicycle-sharing companies Mobike and Ofo.
Not long after bicycles available to share became commonplace in major Chinese cities, car-sharing services have also sprung up across the country.
Many automobile companies have launched their own car-sharing service applications to take a slice of the market share. Gofun Chuxing, launched by Beijing Shouqi Group in February 2016, already has a fleet of 1,100 cars and over 100 rental spots in Beijing.
In Shanghai, the SAIC Motor Corporation has jointly launched more than 6,500 cars in the city with EVCARD, an electric-car rental company, with both aiming to expand their services to 50 cities in 2017. Foreign companies have also joined the arena, with automotive giant Daimler AG launching several different services including Car2go, Car2share and TOGO, mainly using cars under the Smart brand.
Most of the vehicles provided under the car-sharing service are electric. For municipal authorities, it is hoped that such schemes can help to relieve traffic jams and environmental pollution.
According to a Xinhua report, in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where car-sharing services are flourishing, local transport departments tend to be supportive towards this new travel model.
A report released by the National Information Center in 2016 shows that each car used for sharing could mean 13 fewer car purchases. Beijing Municipal Road and Bridge Group has already made plans to transform more than 40 locations under the bridges of the city’s second and third ring roads into car rental spots.
For the younger generation in China, the target consumers of car sharing services, these vehicles meet their travel needs while saving them the trouble and costs of keeping a car.
Cellphone based applications have made these services even more attainable. For instance, just by uploading the ID card and driver’s license and depositing 699 yuan ($102), a user can easily get an account on Gofun Chuxing. To drive for about one hour only costs 15.6 yuan ($2.3), much lower than taxi fares. The deposit for the Car2go service is even lower, standing at 99 yuan ($14).
However, despite the convenience provided by car-sharing services, there are currently no regulations on the industry.
Huang Haibo, secretary-general of the specialized committee of transportation under the Beijing Lawyers Association, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that automobiles take a relatively larger portion of urban space and road resources, when compared to bike-sharing services. Municipal governors should do more research before issuing any rules to manage the scale and entry standards of the cars used, and to deal with issues including security and insurance.
Experts have also advised authorities to be tolerant towards the new car-share trend, and to improve facilities supporting such services, such as building parking lots near bus and subway terminals as well as in suburban areas.
Experts have also suggested that certain laws should be enacted to regulate customer behavior.