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Summary:

Car-sharing is the gateway drug of the growing trend of using the web to help people share “stuff.” According to a report from research firm Latitude called The Sharing Economy, people who try out car-sharing services are more likely to join in other web-based sharing services.

Zipcar Snaps Up UK Car-sharing Network Streetcar

Car-sharing is the gateway drug of the growing trend of using the web to help people share “stuff.” According to a report from research firm Latitude called The Sharing Economy, people who try out car-sharing services are more likely to join in other web-based sharing services, and car sharers share significantly more across categories (living space, food, goods, information and media, etc.) than non-car sharers.

The results indicate that car-sharing has been a key catalyst for spreading the business model of using the web and social networks to share physical things. Basically it seems like after you get used to sharing a car, your attitude toward ownership in general starts changing.

Car-sharing has been so successful because cars are infrequently used and expensive items, and by joining a car-sharing service, members with the appropriate driving habits can save money. As the Latitude study puts it, cars have traditionally had a “high barrier to ownership or a high burden of ownership.” Latitude says that 69 percent of those surveyed said that they’d be more interested in sharing their stuff if they could make money from it.

Already, Zipcar, a decade old startup with the country’s largest car-sharing network, has a fleet of 7,000 vehicles and more than 400,000 members, and is planning an IPO. According to forecasts from research firm Frost & Sullivan, the number of drivers using car-sharing networks increased 117 percent between 2007 and 2009 in North America. Within five years, the firm expects to see 4.4 million people in North America and 5.5 million people in Europe (where Zipcar hopes to expand its presence beyond London) sign up for car-sharing programs, more than tripling membership from 2009.

Latitude says with this growth in mind, emerging “sharing enterprises would do well to seek partnerships with car-sharing and like services, seek out users of other sharing services as new customers, and begin offering other items to share once established in a category.” In other words: piggyback on or buddy up with car-sharing services, if you want to find the like-minded early adopters.

In a world where there will be an estimated 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 — more than 2 billion than there are today — largely with population growth happening in cities, sharing resources and vehicles will be one of the only sustainable answers. Particularly sharing of cars will be needed when the planet is also facing a shift to a new era of constrained resources, where the traditional way we generate energy is increasingly unsustainable. More efficient use of cars will lead to less oil consumption.

So, woo-hoo for car-sharing! The gateway drug of the web-sharing economy is catalyzing collaborative consumption.

For more research on the intersection of green and IT check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

  1. onecallednick Monday, October 11, 2010

    Had no idea there were that many people per zipcar. I’m really looking forward to SprideShare coming to Oregon (hopefully eugene!). What a great way to grow carshares organically.

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  2. Car sharing is one of the many results achieved by integrating IT with green/using IT to greening our world and lives.

    But teleworking/working from home through virtualisation is the ultimate thing IT can do to green the planet. If this can be acheved faster and more efficiently, the need for car sharing or developing/buying greener cars etc will decrease.

    Not only in the area of cars but the need to develop green power/energy,products etc will also not be as important to save the world.

    Teleworking will reduce global emissions by global proportions directly and indirectly through reduced power,paper consumption which in turn will lead to fewer transport of other goods.

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  3. Thanks for the interesting angle, Katie!

    For those interested in getting the full “The New Sharing Economy” report, it’s free to all for download here: http://bit.ly/cLdD0G

    I’d also recommend checking out our study partner, Shareable Magazine , for great news and content about all kinds of sharing services and resources across industries.

    Thanks again for the write-up!
    Kim at Latitude (kgaskins@latd.com)

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  4. Thanks for the props Kim! We’re co-publishing a series of posts with Latitude Research about the study starting with this one about the role of social media sharing offline:

    http://shareable.net/blog/is-social-media-catalyzing-new-sharing-economy

    The study suggests social media is paving the way by increasing trust and as a sort of training ground.

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  5. Car sharing is the future and as you pointed out, continues to grow in leaps and bounds. The Los Angeles area finally has their own local based company, founded by a former Flexcar employee. The entrepreneur spirit is alive and well with the new P2P concept coming on board, it can only grow!

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