Free Floating Car Sharing with Electric Vehicles - From a Niche to a Mass Market

Free Floating Car Sharing with Electric Vehicles - From a Niche to a Mass Market


Iris Wuerbel, InnoZ GmbH, Sandra Wappelhorst, InnoZ GmbH, Josephine Steiner, InnoZ GmbH


This study examines the chances for a future market growth of free floating car sharing with electric vehicles through analysis of the characteristics of the next target group.


Urban as well as rural areas worldwide are increasingly faced with the negative impacts of climate change caused by economic growth, onward urbanization, population increase and the related growing transport demands and needs. To face these problems technical innovations in combination with changes in peoples’ mobility patterns have to be a main target in the mobility sector, especially of urban transport pioneers and providers of mobility services.

In recent years, new innovative and integrated business models are emerging. Sharing concepts like car sharing have gained worldwide popularity. These services allow people to use cars on demand without having the responsibilities of a private car. Station based offers, which are booked in advance at fixed stations, have been on the market for many years. Free floating systems have developed more recently. Yet they have shown an outstanding increase in recent years (AIM Carsharing-Barometer 2014). Those services provide spontaneous booking, instant and seamless access as well as one-way trips.

A frequently asked question concerning free floating car sharing is how the transition from a niche market to a mass market can be enabled for the simultaneous reduction of car ownership.

To address this issue this article investigates the following research questions:
1. How can the next target group for free floating car sharing be characterized?
2. What are the requirements for the market entry of the next target group of free floating car sharing?

A study within the Showcase Programme “Electric Fleets for Berlin-Brandenburg” (project duration: 2013 – 2015) was carried out to address these questions. Focus of the study was a free floating car sharing service providing 250 electric shared vehicles within the inner city of Berlin.

Within the study a theoretical analysis was carried out as well as a quantitative survey, which was developed as computer assisted web interview (CAWI) and distributed via mail. Accounted for by the early status of research concerning the future market spread of free floating car sharing, the study followed an explorative approach.

Theoretical analysis focussed on the diffusion process model of Rogers. This shows five groups which adopt a certain service or product over the timeline in the market diffusion process. Innovators are the first to enter the market followed by the early adopters. In Rogers model process they both make up together 16 % of the maximum market potential. The early majority is the next group and with 34 % one of the largest. Finally the late majority (34 %) and the laggards (16 %) enter the market.

This theoretical research gives the background of an inductive model which was created within the study. It describes the differences between the five adoption groups for mobility services like free floating car sharing. Those lie among others in the willingness of the individual to take risks while trying out new mobility services and whether the user is an opinion leader in her or his social environment for mobility services.

Results of the explorative study indicate that the market diffusion of free floating car sharing, which includes those services with electric vehicles, seems to be situated between the early adopters and the early majority. Theory implies this to be the so-called ‘gap’ within the diffusion process. At this spot positive user experiences of the early adopters are crucial for the further diffusion of free floating car sharing as they act out as opinion leaders in their social environment. In case of bad experiences of the early adopters the early majority will not be motivated to use the service.

This would mean that the further market diffusion of free floating car sharing services depends on a) whether the experiences of the early adopters, who entered the market already, are positive and b) how visible their experiences are for the still doubting early majority.

One interpretation of these results for providers of free floating car sharing services (with electric or conventional engine) is, that advertisement in general will not necessarily lead to an increasing number of users. Instead it needs positive early adopters on the one hand and an encouragement of the exchange of positive user experiences between the early adopters and the early majority on the other hand.


Association for European Transport