Visualization of car sharing business areas and population density
Carsharing provider WeShare asks visitors to its homepage: »Our cities are loud, dirty, crowded and great.
How about quieter, cleaner, emptier and great instead? «The solution from WeShare is, of course, shared electric cars that can be freely driven around the business area and parked.
Such a concept is offered by numerous other providers, sometimes with and sometimes without an electric drive, for example ShareNow and Miles.
The systems work in a simple way: unpack your smartphone, find a car nearby, book, drive off, park at your destination, and that is your individual mobility without your own car.
According to the WeShare homepage, everyone benefits from this.
Because "fewer cars, fewer emissions and less traffic noise make the city a bit more liveable for everyone," it says there.
In fact, not everyone benefits from it.
More precisely, not even all city dwellers, as a SPIEGEL evaluation of the business areas in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich by the providers WeShare, ShareNow and Miles shows.
The external borders of the business areas in the three cities were recorded and their share of the total area was calculated.
In the case of Hamburg, the areas were also compared with the local unemployment rate.
In Berlin, providers focus on areas in the center of the city, with the exception of a few islands, for example in Spandau, Siemensstadt or the Adlershof Technology Park.
Above all, they serve areas in which local public transport is well developed and in which almost all distances can be covered by bike.
“The evaluation supports an assumption that we have
have been in the specialist scene for a long time: The providers are rushing to urban, high-density areas, "says Christoph Aberle from the Institute for Transport Planning and Logistics at the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH).
Better to go to the company headquarters than to residential areas on the outskirts
In districts that are already well connected by buses and trains, there are often three or four sharing offers.
"But they no longer really improve mobility and public transport makes much more sense for climate protection," criticizes the scientist.
On request, however, the providers pointed out that what they offer was especially important in the city center - despite the good local transport connections. A WeShare spokesman explains that there are still many people living there with their own cars, for whom local public transport alone is not enough to finally get rid of the vehicle. “Car sharing can be the decisive reason here.” In contrast, where there is no well-developed public transport system, having one's own car seems all the more indispensable - car sharing is difficult.
But car sharing companies often avoid areas with adequately developed local transport and a high population density.
All three providers investigated avoid the large housing estates of Marzahn and Hellersdorf in northeast Berlin - although Hellersdorf is more densely populated with over 10,000 inhabitants per square kilometer than the Berlin-Mitte district.
A similar picture emerges in Munich, where both the densely populated but remote areas in the Messestadt Riem and the Hasenbergl, which is directly adjacent to the business areas of ShareNow and Miles, are left out.
In the northeast of the metropolis, on the other hand, ShareNow definitely connects areas beyond Munich city center, for example the airport and the area around the headquarters of ProSiebenSat.1 and an Allianz office complex in Unterföhring.
"The providers are almost exclusively active in traffic-attractive areas," explains TUHH expert Aberle.
They evidently shy away from the outskirts, where they could complement the sparsely developed local transport - not to mention the surrounding area.
"A contribution to the common good is not evident to me," says Aberle.
On request, ShareNow referred to the required demand for the operation of car sharing.
The more work, leisure and living are mixed in an area, the higher the demand for car sharing without fixed parking spaces (»free-floating«).
This combination is apparently missing in residential areas like Hellersdorf.
In their opinion, however, the carsharers are also improving connections away from the centers.
ShareNow referred to the expansion of the business area of all providers, it covers around 190 square kilometers in Berlin, of which around 100 square kilometers are outside the Berlin S-Bahn ring.
A look at Hamburg also shows that the providers are not active where many people could use them.
A lot can be achieved with car sharing in the north-west of Hamburg - the urban area is not well connected by rail, says Christoph Aberle.
"But the providers don't connect this area."
Miles Company asks for patience.
You are growing constantly as a provider, "but a comprehensive offer overnight is not economically sustainable," said a spokeswoman.
But they are ready to exchange ideas with the cities.
In the Hanseatic city, all providers also avoid the large housing estate Mümmelmannsberg in the east of the city, although it is adjacent to the Miles business area.
They stay almost completely away from the areas in the south of the city.
The fact that urban areas such as Mümmelmannsberg are excluded also contradicts a mantra of the industry. The industry association Shared Mobility, for example, promises »socially sustainable, shared mobility«. In fact, in Mümmelmannsberg and other large German settlements, incomes are comparatively low and unemployment rates are high. Many people there cannot afford their own car and could possibly use a shared car every now and then. The same applies to Harburg in the south of Hamburg, where the providers have only developed the area around the university.
"The providers do not consciously exclude certain social groups," explains TUHH expert Aberle.
"Pure purchasing power plays a subordinate role." For the sharing companies, a high population density and many travel destinations are decisive, and this combination is found close to the centers.
There, customers mostly moved the vehicles back and forth themselves, for example between Berlin-Mitte, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Siemensstadt.
In so-called dormitory cities, more staff might be required to bring the cars to where they are currently in demand.
Miles points out in this context that the Hamburg villa district Blankenese is not yet part of the business area.
Because the sharing cars are concentrated in urban areas, the systems hardly contribute to climate protection, complains scientist Aberle.
They would be used too often for journeys that would be much more efficient with local public transport.
But it doesn't have to stay that way, says Aberle.
It should be questioned whether municipalities should continue to provide commercial car sharing companies in the city center with public parking spaces cheaply or free of charge.
New editions are also conceivable.
Providers would have to prove, for example, that a free-floating car replaces eight private cars.
"If you want to drive into attractive areas, you should first meet these requirements," says Aberle.
“Then there would be an incentive, something for a traffic turnaround
Where does the data come from? Expand
The geographic boundaries on which this article is based were exported from the websites and apps of the providers described in May 2021. The external borders of the operational areas were included in the investigation. Smaller zones within the operating areas in which the parking of car sharing vehicles is not permitted were not taken into account.