Estimating market potential
Different systems of shared vehicles
There are different carsharing models.
Station-based carsharing: a car or bicycle is rented at a fixed location, used and then returned to its initial station. For the provider, such services are easy to handle, as there is no need to redistribute vehicles.
Free-floating carsharing: a bicycle or car is picked up, used and then parked anywhere within a defined area of use in Switzerland. Subsequently, it can be rented by the next user or transferred by the provider to a location where demand is high.
Ridesharing: a person offers a ride from A to B. Other users can then buy a seat in that particular vehicle. This system improves vehicle occupancy, one car ferrying several passengers instead of just the driver.
In order to assess how shared mobility services can be integrated into the Swiss transport system and how effectively they save energy, the researchers used a computer simulation program called MATSim. The simulations make it possible to stage various scenarios while avoiding costly field trials. Axhausen and his team limited themselves to scenarios in urban areas, in this case the greater Zurich area, for two reasons: firstly, it is easier to offer shared mobility systems in such a setting, as the density of potential users is higher. Secondly, appropriate data needed to feed the simulation model was already available for the Zurich area. For their studies, the investigators had access to data from the carsharing provider "Mobility" and the bicycle-sharing provider "Smide".
But how many cars would it take to satisfy the entire transport demand of the greater Zurich area? As no assumptions regarding this question were available, this was the first simulation carried out by the researchers. The results showed that approximately 60,000 cars in the free-floating scheme would meet the entire travel needs of the greater Zurich area. Today, approximately 250,000 privately owned cars are registered in the same area - four times more than needed. The calculation was based on the assumption that a parked car can be reached in less than 15 minutes, 60 percent of the vehicles even in under five minutes. Carrying more than one person per trip in the theoretically required 60,000 cars would result in further savings in terms of the number of journeys.