'All the perks of having your own car, none of the hassle' - Push for Wellingtonians to embrace car-sharing movement

Source: Seven Sharp

Wellington City Council has teamed up with a local company to allow a bunch of shared cars to float around the city.

Nikki Legarth, a member of car-sharing company Mevo, has been using the service for the past month.

"It's a convenient way to not worry about petrol, parking, Warrants of Fitness, and all of the perks of having your own car with none of the hassle," Ms Legarth said.

"For me, it's more about personal control, so if you’re in a taxi or Uber, they’re going to get mad at you if you need to do 900 stops because you’re running and it’s a day like this, whereas if you’re the one driving, then it’s up to you what you do and you don’t have to make small talk."

The service gives her access to fifteen different vehicles across the capital.

The cars are similar to what you might hire while on holiday, but they’re tailored to the needs of people living and working in the city.

"Mevo is a car-sharing service, really akin to what we see overseas, basically giving people access to a bunch of cars around the city from their smartphone," Mevo founder Erik Zydervelt said.

"They can hit reserve, walk up to it and press unlock on their own phone and it will unlock and use it as if it is their own."

Mevo is the second car-sharing company to join the Wellington market, taking on City Hop, which expanded into the capital from Auckland six years ago.

"We're constantly asking the council for more carparks. Our cars are used quite frequently down there. We know our customers are missing out," City Hop general manager Ben Carter said.

Both companies have a similar goal - working to convince drivers to ditch their own keys.

"It's not about us telling people what to do by any stretch of the imagination. It's really options - giving people more options. Cars are really the second biggest purchase people normally make after their house. It’s a pretty big part of people's budget. That being said, they also sit around, on average, 94 per cent of the time," Mr Zydervelt said.

Car-sharing vehicles are used a little bit more. Mevo says its fleet idle around 86 per cent of the time, so there's still a way to go.

"People love owning cars and we understand that, and there is something really nice to that, so it won’t be for everyone. We really want to make sure that using our service is as much like as having your own car but all over the city as possible," he said.

But with the cost of owning a car on the rise, it’s another opportunity to share resources.

"People access media these days, so they’ve got Netflix or Lightbox or Spotify, so it's access over ownership. It’s kind of the same thing that is happening with cars in cities around the world and what Mevo represents."

With City Hop you have to return the car to a set place. Mevo offers more flexibility, allowing the car to be parked up anywhere within a designated radius.

"I've seen it work overseas quite well, and it's working. For me, I like the back-to-base model, where the cars get its own dedicated carpark. The research shows that that model removes more cars off the road, it doesn't compete with public transport and it supports the community more," Mr Carter said.

However, it was the free floating feature that sparked the interest of the council, which is providing the carparks for free.

"For every car-share vehicle we have on the street, that takes about five to fifteen other vehicles off the roads," Wellington mayor Justin Lester said.

"In an international sense, it’s not too bad, but there is congestion, and it will get worse in time like we've seen in other cities.

"Auckland's probably the best example in New Zealand. You can’t just build roads to get out of congestion, you’ve got to try and get people out of cars, onto public transport, walking and cycling and getting around, having a balanced transport network, so that’s what we're focused on doing."

The mayor believes Wellington is the perfect place for the idea of car sharing to accelerate.

"It's a very open-minded city. People are very equipped to embrace change and technology, and so what we're finding is really fast uptake on car-sharing. People have travelled overseas and tried it because they didn't want to own a car overseas and they’ve come back home and said, ‘I want to live in town, close to town. It’s an easy commute to work and I can car share on the weekends,'" Mr Lester said.

"A lot of people don't know what it is, then you get to sit down with them and have them go, 'Oh yeah, it makes sense, because we live in Wellington'. You can walk everywhere [and] the public transport system is pretty decent, but occasionally, you just need a car, and it's great for those occasions without having to go to all the extras to have your own car," Ms Legarth said.