cleantech insights

Fill up ya trunk – cos’ here come the “eBays” of goods delivery

Stephen Marcus

While sitting in a local “coffice” a couple of weeks ago with Cleantech Group’s head of research and advisory, Greg Neichin, I started explaining to him what I thought was a brilliant and unaddressed business idea in the smart transportation space.

I said to him: “This idea of peer-to-peer is beginning to gain some serious traction in the transportation space. We’ve all heard of peer-to-peer car sharing companies such as RelayRides, WhipCar, and Spride, and there are some innovative and emerging eBay-style market places propping up for parking spots such as ParkatmyHouse, ParkWhiz, and Streetline. It seems logical that this idea could be applied to goods delivery, no?”

The basis was that if I am driving to the other side of the country, it makes sense for me to be connected to someone who has a parcel to be delivered to a similar destination in exchange for a fee. Or even better, if I’m a delivery van with a scheduled delivery one way, it makes sense for me to find something to stock up with on the way back rather than have individual parcels go to several depots and be transferred across …


Car-sharing needs to be taken back to its historical roots

Stephen Marcus

It is always satisfying when a company finally does something that you have been preaching for some time, thinking it is a great idea. Today was one of those days. As a transportation analyst, it feels highly gratifying.

The news is that Toyota, in collaboration with three Japanese real estate companies – Nomura Real, Daikyo Incorporated, and Toyota Housing Corporation – is launching a condominium-based vehicle car-sharing program with plug-in hybrid Prius and iQ EVs in Spring 2012.

For a while now, it has amazed me that this “residential-based” approach to car sharing has often been ignored. It makes perfect sense that the best people to share a car with are those that actually live within your building. A little unknown fact is that this residential car sharing approach was utilized decades ago by Israel’s kibbutzim (collective agricultural communities) before the invention of online social networks and vehicle tracking tehcnology. The kibbutz would simply own a small fleet of vehicles that were shared among those that lived and worked on them.

Instead, car-sharing companies have placed thousands of vehicles throughout neighbourhoods. The nearest car-share vehicle can often be a 5-10 minute walk away from your home. Whilst having a short …

Smart Transportation – innovating in a market worth 20% of GDP

Stephen Marcus

Mobility is one of the most fundamental and important characteristics of economic activity. We all have the basic need of going from one place to another – whether you are a business exec travelling across town (or even internationally) for a meeting, a manufacturer moving its product from the factory to the shop floor, or a parent dropping their kids off at school.

The extent to which mobility has shaped and changed society is not thought about enough. The development of the early rudimentary transportation networks was arguably the catalyst that led to the formation of the first multinational corporations, as well as enabled the major flows of international migration that has occurred since the 18th century. Today, transportation has become so integrated into our economies it accounts for 10-20% of total GDP spending in many major economies.

Whilst there is no doubt that more efficient mobility networks will continue to be a major contributor to future wealth creation and social welfare, it is quite clear that parts of our transportation networks are used above their designed capacity resulting in associated costs such as congestion (see: 2 week traffic jam on China expressway), accidents, and harmful urban air …

RelayRides: Could it Zip past Zipcar?

Stephen Marcus

All eyes are on Zipcar this week to see how it fares in its scheduled IPO which, at the mid-point of its proposed range, would command a market value of $639 million and be the first car-sharing company globally to go public.

However, less-known but already emerging, is a “second generation” of neighbor-to-neighbor car-sharing companies. The leader of this up-and-coming business model is San Francisco-based RelayRides. (For a more detailed look at RelayRides, take a look at the company insight profile (subscription required)). In contrast to Zipcar which owns its own 8,000-strong fleet of vehicles, RelayRides’ fleet is comprised of privately-owned vehicles which people are willing to loan out in exchange for hourly and daily pay-as-you-go fees from drivers who want access to cars.

By avoiding the overhead cost of buying and maintaining its own fleet, the company says that it will be able to offer car-sharing at hourly rates that are $1 to $2 less than competitors like Zipcar. According to Zipcar’s S-1 filing, c.70% of its costs and expenses are associated with its fleet operation making its business massively asset intensive. Further, with RelayRides, the hourly rates may fall as more car owners join the scheme …