Following a commitment from the Government at the end of 2002, the Department for Transport commissioned research into best practice in setting up formal car sharing and car club schemes.
Tony McNulty, Labour MP for Harrow East, who is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, told MPs in the Houses of Parliament recently: 'From the research, the Government intends to provide new guidance for local authorities, schools and employers on the effective implementation of car share schemes.'
The research and guidance is expected to be completed in October. Car sharing was featured as part of the Government's Are You Doing Your Bit? campaign several years ago and among financial support was a £150,000 grant for the Edinburgh City Car Club. Under the scheme, a number of cars were provided in dedicated parking bays for residents who had signed up to the scheme for a small annual fee.
High-tech systems meant they could simply phone a call centre that would remotely programme the car to recognise the hirer's personal key fob, which was used to open the door. Hirers then paid by time used and mileage, returning the car at the end of their trip for the next user.
The scheme foundered for a number of reasons, partly because of technical glitches, including car batteries being drained by all the high-tech equipment they were carrying, and vandalism.
The scheme was reborn in 2001 and there are now car clubs in other major cities, including London, many run by the Smart Moves organisation (www.smartmoves.com).
McNulty said: 'Building on this, the Department for Transport has been promoting car sharing through its published guidance and initiatives on workplace travel plans and by funding bursary schemes.'
Since 1999, the Department for Transport has been supporting the Carplus car club advisory service, with hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants.
In 1999, it ploughed in £37,000, rising to £38,000 in 2000, £103,000 in 2001, £53,000 in 2002 and £120,000 last year – a total of £351,000.
Despite this, average car occupancy is falling.
Between 1997 and 2002, the average number of people in cars has dropped steadily from 1.6 to 1.58, according to the National Travel Survey.
How car clubs help in the workplace
Many employers offer a pool of cars for use on business trips.
Now, with workplace travel plans putting the focus on more sustainable travel to work, many companies are taking a new look at business travel. Companies with a car pool could set up a car club to make the cars available for private journeys out of hours.
Alternatively, an employer wanting to discourage staff from bringing in their own cars for work-related trips could join a car club to cover business journeys.
Staff could also make use of the club for private journeys.
Benefits to employers
How do they work?
Cars can be booked through a central contact for as little as an hour. They might be used as follows:
Who runs the club?
There are a number of different options available:
The principle of a car club is to ensure the optimal use of a small number of vehicles to meet the needs of a wide group of people. They can help to reduce overall car use, but the cars need high utilisation to ensure overheads are covered. A workplace car club is ideal as business use is complemented by private use of the fleet at evenings and weekends.
Employees with access to a car club vehicle for business use may find ride-sharing to work a more attractive option. In fact, ride-sharers could use a car club vehicle for their daily commute. Van-pooling, where a larger vehicle is used to pick up a number of employees along a route to work, could be useful in remote areas.