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BronNew Mobilty

D’Ieteren’s Poppy car-sharing pays high price for joyriders

Poppy, the young free-floating car-sharing service in Antwerp supported by D’Ieteren with a fleet of 350 mixed electric and CNG cars, is sharpening its rental conditions to tackle growing misuse and vandalism. Other free-floating car-sharing companies learned the hard way too. Some experts think this kind of car-sharing is “rather a nifty toy than sustainable mobility”.


Landing on its side

Two cars were totally wrecked already since January. One by jumping a red light at high speed, hitting a traffic light and another car and landing on its side. Witnesses saw four passengers fleeing the scene. Another 38.450 euro list price (electrical) car was total loss after joyriders on a covered parking lot lost control and crashed into the wall.

From now on Poppy demands drivers to prove at least 24 months of driving experience instead of six, prepaid credit cards are not allowed anymore as they often proved to be not sufficiently covered. Insurance exemption is going from 650 to 950 euro and driving is allowed only in Belgium, unless you buy a holiday package.


More often to body shop

Sharing companies rather do not parade with these kind of damages. But every one of them has to deal with growing lack of sense of civic responsibility towards these shared cars. These cars more often than usual pass by the body shop.

“Fraude and damages come in waves”, says Kate Croisier, responsible for Avis Budget daughter Zipcar in Belgium. Zipcar too has had a number of total losses and sees the invoices from body shops rising. Zipcar started in 2000 and has some 12.000 shared cars around the world.


On a boat to Africa

“But Brussels isn’t different to other cities in the world”, Croisier adds. She remembers one case in which Zipcar could at the very last minute recuperate one of its cars that was put on board of a ship bound for Africa… Zipcar has the advantage being insured by its mother house. Poppy is insured by Baloise.

The problem of lack of public spirit is bigger with private users than with business clients, says Serge Starckman, CEO of Brussels based electric shared cars ZenCar. The company’s clients are 80% B2B. “If I had 50% B2C clients, I would have to close the shop.” When he suffers a total loss, Starckman says, it will take him three months to replace the vehicle, losing three months of income too.


Short distances

Some experts think this kind of car-sharing systems aren’t an answer to the growing mobility problems in big cities, as those cars are only used for very short distances. An average of two to six kilometers, according to a Swedish study.

“This way these free-floating car-sharing systems are rather a competitor to bike-sharing than to replace the private car”, Dirk Lauwers  of the Antwerp University says. A German study shows that only 7,5% of users of free-floating cars are prepared to trade in their private car, compared to 15% of users of fixed stationed shared cars (like Cambio, e.n.) that are more used on the longer term.

“Free-floating car companies often offer faster cars with some status”, Kris Peeters, lecturer traffic science, says. “This way a shared car is rather a nifty toy than sustainable mobility.”