How are car clubs a decarbonisation solution

blog entry
September 21, 2022

Over 300 local and combined authorities have declared a climate emergency. As part of their net zero goals, they want to decarbonize transport by offering more sustainable transport options. These can improve air quality, reduce congestion and ultimately reduce CO2 emissions.

Read on to see how local authorities could benefit from including car clubs in their net zero traffic strategy.

What are car clubs?

Car clubs are short-term car rental companies that give people access to local vehicles on a pay-as-you-go contract. Using a car club is a great alternative to owning your own car. It is also an alternative method for sustainable transport and when public transport or active travel is not an option.

They provide a solution to traffic congestion or parking congestion and encourage more people to consider private cars in exchange for short-term convenient travel.

In 2021, CoMoUK reported that there were 450,231 active car club members in the UK, an increase of 96% over a 12 month period.

How is this relevant to local authorities?

Energy Saving Trust is working with the Department for Transport to provide local authorities with useful advice to help them meet their transport decarbonisation and net-zero emissions goals.

Local authorities can support the introduction of car clubs through policies and interventions as part of their local transport strategies. For example by including them in local charging station plans and site assignments and implementing dedicated car club bays.

Lancaster City Council has established EV car clubs with Co-Wheels to expand its EV fleet, invest in six EVs and leverage the city’s existing EV infrastructure to improve accessibility to driving an EV around the city.

What types of car clubs are there and how do they work?

There are three broad categories of auto clubs:

  • commercial car clubs (run by commercial operators with membership fee)
  • Community Car Clubs (run by local groups)
  • Peer-to-peer car sharing platforms (which allow private individuals to rent their vehicles to users).

These can be operated in three different ways: Back to Base, One-Way and Geofenced.

  • Back to base
    Users pick up a vehicle at a designated parking space and return it at the same location after use.
  • disposable
    Users pick up a vehicle within a defined zone and can drop it off at another location within that zone. For example the Zipcar flex option.
  • geofencing
    A geofence area includes specific streets and vehicles can only be dropped within those areas. Ubeeqo explains more.

Each option can benefit auto club users differently and can be used for a variety of trips, including longer trips, one-way trips, and shorter round-trips.

The advantages of car clubs

These auto club options can provide a good alternative for those who need or want to use a car occasionally without the expense of owning, insuring, taxing and storing a car.

For users:

  • Cheaper than owning a car – 73% of respondents agreed that joining the auto club saves them money compared to owning a car.
  • The average car club vehicle is newer and more fuel efficient than the average UK private car.
  • Good for occasional drivers or for those who make infrequent short trips. Using a car club can also replace a second car.
  • No worries about finding or paying for parking (especially with back-to-base models).

For municipalities:

  • Relieves parking pressures in cities by reducing the need for private parking when switching to a Car Club model.
  • Supports net zero ambitions for the region (particularly EV auto clubs).
  • Increases vehicle occupancy.
  • Can reduce parking needs in new developments if done right.
  • Can help fill gaps in public transport delivery that other services cannot fill, especially in rural areas.
  • Can reduce the carbon emissions of the gray fleet when private cars are used for business purposes (if a car club is used as a shared vehicle instead).

For the environment:

  • An auto club car can take up to 20 older and private cars off the road.
  • Air quality improvements through less traffic and more efficient vehicles on the roads.
  • Lower CO2 emissions, around 27% less CO2 emissions for a car club car than the average UK car. All of the auto club’s cars are less than five years old and therefore comply with the environmental zones. About 12% are electric compared to 1% of private cars. Enterprise maintains an extensive list of electric cars, read more here.
  • Supports the shift towards lower-carbon travel by imposing a direct cost on car use. Users are more likely to choose another mode of transport and try other methods, such as car clubs.


  • Low car club uptake can result in cars being used less.
  • Lack of access to designated car club parking lots within an area to aid adoption.
  • Challenge from residents who do not want to lose parking spaces to Auto Club vehicles.
  • Lack of access to EV charging infrastructure (for EV clubs). There are some programs that can support this accessibility, such as: B. the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme and the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program.

The central theses

Car clubs are a great alternative for sustainable transport methods where active travel and public transport are not possible.

Local authorities can support this adoption and implement strategies for electric vehicle (EV) auto clubs into their net-zero emissions plans. They can do this by introducing designated EV car club parking spaces and supporting EV charging infrastructure to make it more accessible.

Currently, 12% of auto club cars are electric. This number is increasing with demand, and 85% of members were satisfied with driving an electric car club vehicle, although improvements with support around this inclusion, such as B. accessibility for charging, could be improved.

Last updated: September 21, 2022

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