Charging, Battery Swap or Refueling Which Best Fits Car Sharing?

July 3, 2017 6 mins read
Charging, Battery Swap or Refueling Which Best Fits Car Sharing?

Currently, there are three types of energy replenishment available for car-sharing home and abroad: charging, battery swap and refueling. In the Chinese market, over 120 companies are engaged in car-sharing with vehicles covering all three types of energy replenishment, while most of the vehicles for car-sharing in other countries are oil-fueled, including car2go, DriveNow and Zipcar and with a small part adopting a charging mode, such as AutoLib. So far there were no reports of battery swap mode used in overseas car-sharing. In this regard, this paper will elaborate on the advantages and disadvantages of the above-mentioned three modes and the reason why the domestic time-sharing leasing market pattern is totally different from that of other countries.

  • Car-sharing in USA

After nearly 20 years of development of car sharing, the time-sharing leasing market has become a relatively mature industry in the US, with a high industry concentration after several rounds of mergers and acquisitions within the industry. The four key players, Zipcar, car2go, Enterprise CarShare and Hertz 24/7 accounted for 95% of the total car sharing market, leaving 5% for the P2P car rental market. Zipcar, America's largest time-sharing leasing company, currently owns more than 10,000 cars, covering more than 50 automobile brands, including Audi, BMW, MINI, Mazda and Toyota Hybrid and different types, including GL, SUV, Pickup and trucks, most of which are gasoline locomotives and hybrid vehicles adopting refueling mode. Honda specializes in the provision of clean energy vehicles for Zipcar, including Insight Hybrid, Civic Hybrid and Fit Electric Vehicles, where Fit Electric Vehicles employ a charging mode. Car2go provides Smart two-seat cars, Mercedes-Benz B-class cars and SUV, which are all oil-fueled. Most of the Enterprise CarShare fleet are oil-fueled cars and include Fiat, Nissan and other brands. Meanwhile, it also has a few new energy automobiles such as Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can be refueled and charged. Most of the vehicles used by Hertz 24/7 adopt refueling mode and cover various passenger cars and large business purpose vehicles of Ford and Fiat while maintaining a small number of electric vehicles.

  • Car-sharing in Europe

Europe's car sharing is mainly realized with car-sharing. Car2go, the world's largest time-sharing leasing company, currently owns 14,000 vehicles, with most of them oil-fueled and covering Smart two-seat cars, Mercedes-Benz B-class cars and SUV and a few Smart electric vehicles. Europe's second largest time-sharing leasing company, DriveNow owned by BMW, currently runs 4,000 vehicles in Germany, UK, Italy and other five European countries, with most of its vehicles oil-fueled and covering BMW 1 Series, X1 and MINI and a small number of BMW i3 and ActiveE electric cars. Europe's third largest time-sharing leasing company is Autolib, founded in December 2011 in Paris. Currently, Autolib operates over 5,000 vehicles with only one type - four-seat electric Bluecar - jointly developed by Bollore and Pininfarina, an Italian car design company.

  • Car-sharing in China

China's car-sharing can be traced back to 2011, during which most of the vehicles used for car-sharing are oil-fueled as the new energy passenger cars have not been commercially available. The first company that launched time-sharing leasing business in China was Avis, a foreign capital car rental company, who offered gasoline fueled Mercedes-Benz Smart in four billing modes - respectively 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours and 6 hours - with 38 yuan charged per hour. The first local enterprise that entered time-sharing leasing market is EVnet of Hangzhou, who released nearly 20 vehicles in four models (Smart, MG3, Geely Panda AT and BYD F3DM) in November 2011. Most of EVnet's vehicles are oil-fueled and only BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid vehicle can be charged. However, as there were no charging facilities, BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid vehicles also adopted refueling mode.

China's time-sharing leasing market ranks first in the world in its size, owning over 35,000 vehicles. More than 80% of the vehicles adopt the charging mode and the parking spaces at each rental station are equipped with charging piles. About 15% of the vehicles adopt battery swap mode, all of which are electric ones. However, the parking spaces at the rental stations are not equipped with charging piles. The other 5% are oil-fueled automobiles equipped with refueling cards. And the parking spaces at the rental stations are also not equipped with charging piles.

The concentration ratio of China's time-sharing leasing industry is also improving. The EVCARD owned by GlobalCarsharing, China's largest time-sharing leasing company, has more than 8,500 vehicles, all employing the charging mode. China's second largest time-sharing leasing company, PandAuto owns more than 6,000 vehicles, all adopting the battery swap mode. The two major time-sharing leasing companies assuming refueling mode are car2go and car2share run by foreign-funded enterprise Daimler, whose vehicles used are all gasoline fueled Mercedes-Benz Smart. The local company TOGO runs in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the four first-tier cities of China. The vehicles used include Mercedes-Benz Smart, BMW MINI, Citroen C3, Peugeot 2008 and Roewe 550, among which the Mercedes-Benz Smart accounts for half of the total leasing cars. Although Roewe 550 is a new energy automobile, it adopts the refueling mode so the TOGO rental stations are not equipped with charging piles.

  • Which mode best fits car-sharing?

What caused such a big difference between the types of energy replenishment adopted home and abroad? The main reason lies in the smaller number of new energy automobiles and charging piles in Europe and the United States. As most of their electric vehicles are limited to 100 km in terms of driving range, the time-sharing leasing companies are inclined to use oil-fueled cars. On the contrary, the Chinese government initiated a series of high subsidies since 2014 to encourage the sales of new energy automobiles. Meanwhile, more and more operating licenses are issued for the time-sharing leasing companies. The charging pile industry also enters an explosive growth stage in the past two years, contributing to the adoption of charging mode for most of China's time-sharing leasing fleet. It is expected that the current market pattern will continue to 2020. With the withdrawing of subsidy policy for new energy automobiles, the market share of regular hybrid cars will grow, and the market share of the refueling model in China's time-sharing leasing market is expected to increase significantly.

About the author

David Zhang is an independent auto consultant and industry analyst. In 2002, he got a PhD degree in marine engineering from Wuhan University of Technology. In 2003, he got the professional title associate researcher when he engaged in post-doctoral research at Hefei University of Technology. Since 2004, he has worked in the auto industry in Shanghai. His domains include new-energy vehicles, charging facilities, power batteries, car sharing, etc. He has investigated auto markets such as the USA, Europe, Japan and South Korea, etc. So far, he has published more than 160 articles, given more than 60 lectures, chaired 10 industry conferences, given more than 200 media interviews, including one given to Shanghai TV Station. He has appeared in Shanghai radio Station’s auto talk show program 7 times. At present, he mainly studies the auto industry’s hot technologies and future trend. In 2016, he visited 32 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, to investigate the new-energy vehicle, charging facilities and hourly rental car market. He is known as “The Traveler” in the auto industry. 


Bruce Zhou's picture
Bruce Zhou
Senior Manager | Industrial & Life Science Recruitment