What a start to 2021. With the lockdown announced on the 4th January it was definitely a case for a cautious beginning. On the same day, however, Brian Pinker, 82, became the first person (outside trials) to receive the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine. A much-needed boost for everyone, providing an important foundation of certainty and a route for things to get easier.
The first three months of the year have been lively despite some constraints. Karshare focused on providing cars to people to support essential trips, enabled by our touchless, keyless technology. A great test for us given we grew by +40% a month throughout this period. This is not only a testament to our team, who worked hard behind the scenes, but to our owners who continued to make their cars available and support their community of carers and other essential services.
The rule change on April 12th (overnight stays) has enabled more trips to be possible and this will be boosted again on May 17th. Our bookings in May are already +75% above April – we can see first hand how things are becoming unconstrained.
The re-opening of the UK comes with further opportunities for us to expand our services. We are delighted to have launched Manchester, where rental bookings are already flowing. South West London, Coventry and Birmingham are launching now to support demand we have seen coming in from interested owners and renters.
In Coventry, we are working with the City Council and with Transport for West Midlands to support their new Mobility Credits initiative. Car owners with older, polluting cars can sell up in exchange for credits to use on “shared transportation providers”. We were thrilled that Karshare was invited to participate in this scheme and are excited to not only deliver a great range of cars to locals, but also drive economic benefit back to the community of owners who sign up to share their cars.
Our London launch feels like a homecoming for us. Under Car & Away (our previous name) we enabled car owners who parked their cars at Gatwick Airport to rent them out to others whilst on holiday. We had over 2,000 owners use our service, many of whom suggested they would rent out their cars from home if they could – and now they can.
Another exciting growth area for us is enabling more rural communities to share cars. We have been working with two such communities, Strathaven in Scotland and Talybont in Wales who, despite their size, match any passion we have seen to drive more sustainable transport options for their residents. This has opened our eyes, and our technical problem-solving appetite, to enable more communities like this to share cars. In such areas, phone connectivity is sometimes a challenge. The team has worked double-time to enable all of our technology to work in spite of this. It’s in these remote areas where we are finding really smart solutions that can benefit all. It’s inspiring when we find solutions to problems where you’d least expect them.
Again, this would not be possible without the support of leaders in these communities who have embraced not only a new possibility, but also given us time and patience to help us make it work. A special thanks to Alison Kidd, from Talybont, for being brilliant with the rigorous tests needed to make car sharing work in sub-3G valleys and to the team at Climate Action Strathaven, who have been ever-determined to drive sharing success in their community, supporting the first 100 rentals by residents to get people engaged.
I always say that Karshare is the enabler – the heroes are our community of owners and renters and partners who make this really work. However, it doesn’t go without recognising the team that enables us to be the enabler… Going through growth, as we all know from our own personal experiences, means going through changes. In May 2019, we were 13 strong. This time last year we were 23. By August 2021, we will be 39 amazing people, all passionate, all focused and all driven by our purpose to create a world where we never have more cars than we need. Given there are 38 million privately owned vehicles in the UK, that are only used 4% of the time, and a billion more across the globe, we are really excited to be growing towards our goal.