Green Tech South-West have showcased some of the region’s most exciting Green Tech organisations as part of Bristol Technology Festival. We caught up with Andy Hibbert, CEO at Karshare ahead of the session.
Can you tell us more about Karshare and what they do?
Andy: Karshare is a community car sharing company. Like an Airbnb for cars, Karshare connects renters with owners, giving those with cars the opportunity to earn extra income while those in need of a car can rent from their local community.
The move to Net Zero will require 50% less cars on our roads. Car sharing will play a key role in achieving this. With an estimated 10 million cars parked at airports each year and 38 million vehicles parked on our streets and driveways, Karshare is unlocking this huge potential fleet of vehicles – one that is unused 96% of the time – through community car sharing.
We have an extensive partner ecosystem providing owners and renters with world leading assurances and protection.
Our unique platform features telematics and keyless tech. Like Fitbit, we generate a score to help our community drive safely. Our app makes it possible for cars to be booked instantly and unlocked using facial recognition.
Having already launched in Bristol, we stand at the forefront of a new economy that puts community and our planet first.
How did you come up with the idea for Karshare?
Andy: Karshare began as Car & Away – and started with me in a grump!
In March 2014, I was on a trip researching the success of Airbnb in America. I hired a car and had a terrible experience with queues, extra costs and not getting the car I wanted. Despite the bad start, my trip quickly turned positive and revealed to me the huge success that Airbnb had already become as an attractive alternative for travellers needing somewhere to stay.
Waiting at the airport for the return flight, I was contemplating the positive success of Airbnb as well as my negative car rental experience when I found myself staring out over a sea of over 10,000 parked cars. This is when I had the epiphany and thought: Why can’t we share our cars just like we share our homes? Instead of all of these cars sitting here gathering dust, they could be earning cash for their owners!
Having just experienced it myself, I knew people were frustrated with the traditional ways of renting cars. I decided it was time to reinvent how we own and use them.
In January 2016, I left my role leading an established travel management company and started to build a car ownership revolution. 2 years later, Car & Away was born.
It feels like Karshare have had a big year, what have been the highlights?
Andy: It most definitely has! Almost from the start of 2020 our business plans, like so many others, were thrown into a spin by the pandemic. Our airport car sharing business (Car & Away) was suspended given the significant reduction in air travel. Whilst we know this will recover, it gave us a chance to focus 100% on enabling cars to be shared within our communities.
In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated our thinking.
We had a meeting of minds on the 16th of March and 10 days later, Karshare was launched. Our initial focus was a COVID-response service to support the increased transportation needs across NHS staff and other key workers. With guidance against public transport on the one hand, and charity organisations like food banks having to figure out how to distribute their food on the other, there was an instant need for local transportation options. A simple campaign was set up asking people to pledge their cars and Bristolians came to the rescue with hundreds donating their vehicle to be used for free. In reality, we were just the enabler. We identified a need and matched it to generous owners willing to help. Our core capability underpinned the scheme – insurance, checks, cleans, roadside assistance, driver safety awareness and of course an incredible team providing all the guidance and assurance necessary to make it happen.
To date, over 10,000 days of rentals have been “donated” nationally including 4,000 in Bristol, where we have provided vehicles to staff at North Bristol and University Hospital Trusts and helped to support charities including Bristol NW Foodbank, Black South West Network and Helping Bristol’s Homeless.
In September, we expanded our service in Bristol, giving car owners the opportunity to earn extra income and those in need of a car the option to rent from their local community. The key difference to this service was the technology that we put in place to support this. All our shared cars have keyless technology. This means renters can pick up the cars without having to meet the owners, and in turn owners do not have to be around to hand over a key. Using facial recognition the car unlocks through the Karshare App – contactless and easy.
Lockdown has created a further catalyst for owners. We are seeing more people sign up and use this downtime to get their cars onboarded. We are on track to enable over 100 Bristol owners by the end of November, which is getting close to the company car sharing fleets of Zipcar, Enterprise Car Club and Co-Wheels. It has been a great year of growing our community initiative which keeps money local and provides more cars where people need them.
What are Karshare’s green credentials?
Andy: I’m glad you asked – this is an integral part of our mission.
Our core purpose is to enable a world to do more with less.
Cars are useful but given they are unused 96% of the time they are becoming a real problem – our kerbs are clogged with cars. This problem is local and global, with over 1 billion cars on our planet used just 4% of the time.
According to a study commissioned by IBM, approximately 30% of a city’s traffic is caused by drivers actively searching for a parking spot. By sharing cars, we can actively reduce the number of cars parked. Active car sharing in Scotland has shown that every car shared takes 14 private cars off the road. This reduces the need for private car parking spaces, leading to better designed towns and cities with more space for cycling and walking.
More and more governments and cities are making Net Zero pledges for 2050 – Bristol was the first city in the UK to call a climate emergency and is gunning to be Net Zero by 2030. We all must learn to do more with less in order to meet these goals – and car sharing will play a key role in achieving this.
For cities like Bristol to meet its Net Zero ambitions we need NEWER cars (less diesel / petrol) but importantly we need FEWER cars; 50% less cars in fact. Sharing is not an option, it’s a necessity.
Right now, with people needing personalised transport options more than they did prior to the pandemic, car sharing is even more important to promote as an option to people who feel they need wheels to get around. It’s much better to share and use a car already parked within the community than to add another car to our streets and having the planet bear the brunt. Our job is to make it easy for people to do this and to support them with the best technology and sharing ecosystem.
We want people to get the bus, catch a train, ride a bike or even just walk. But we understand that sometimes that’s just not possible. Heavy shopping, longer journeys or carrying your life’s possessions – for some things you just need a car. By sharing, we can help to achieve this more sustainably and create a great community of sharers who are making a significant positive impact to the environment.
What’s next for Karshare?
Andy: We will continue to focus on growing our community in Bristol whilst also planning to launch elsewhere in the UK. Bristol will always be where Karshare was born and Bristolians are already showing us how community car sharing can work successfully within their communities.
We aim to launch 4 more locations in 2021 in addition to re-starting our airport car sharing services. Gatwick will be the first to re-launch and we are talking with Bristol Airport to work through when services can potentially resume again with them.
There really is a seismic shift in social awareness and social responsibility, which is causing people to be far more open to engaging right now, knowing that by doing so they can help themselves, help others and help our planet. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that times are changing – and so can we.
Additionally, we will continue to innovate our community sharing capability driven by the insights and feedback we receive daily. Our community is very engaged and I believe they really feel a part of making Karshare a success.
Right now, we are raising funds to support this next phase and are doing part of this using Crowdfunding as a way to enable our community to own a part of the business and support this next phase of growth. You will be able to find us on Seedrs soon, so please keep an eye out if this is something you would love to support.
Thank you Andy for the chat.