Co-wheels Car Club

Posted by editor 17/01/2014 1 Comment 31098 views



Co-wheels is a car club reconnecting people, saving the environment, and winning awards! By Figen Gunes

From just a humble start of only two cars, Co-wheels Car Club, a social enterprise offering a network of community cars clubs for both businesses and individuals to hire on a ‘pay as you go basis’, grabbed the environmental category award at the recent Social Enterprise UK Awards Ceremony.

Co-wheels was set up by a small group of like minded individuals who felt passionately about what they wanted to achieve – providing an environmentally friendly, socially just, community-based alternative to car ownership. The idea was born out of local residents’ frustration that nobody was running a car club anywhere in the North East of England. By providing car hire services in deprived and also in rural areas across the country, the national car club operator helps re-connect individuals with communities, isolated communities with the bigger society, and society with a greener environment.

“Commercial car club operators have tended to be very London- and urban-centric. Our inclusive approach has ensured that numerous car clubs now operate across the UK in areas thought by commercial operators to be subject to market failure. We feel strongly about that car clubs should be everywhere for everyone, not just in London,” says Richard Falconer, director of Co-wheels.

Co-wheels Formed in 2008, Co-wheels is now operating in over 40 UK towns and cities across the UK, has over 4200 members and 230 vehicles in towns and cities across the country. After launching with only two Skoda Fabia, the social business is now recognised as one of the UK’s fastest growing businesses in Social Enterprise 100 Index put together by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The car club enables both businesses and individuals to access cars on a ‘pay as you go’ basis without any of the cost and hassle of car ownership, which helps to cut car use and tackle climate change in the longer term. For every one car club car Co-wheels puts on the road – it’s estimated that they take the equivalent of anywhere between 15 – 25 cars off the road.

With its headquarters in Durham, Co-wheels Car Club operates from locations as far North as Aberdeen in Scotland to the South coast of England, helping to foster car clubs in both rural and more economically deprived areas helping to address issues of transport poverty.

Another important innovation Co-wheels has delivered is its ability to successfully integrate electric vehicles into its car clubs operations ensuring lower costs and lower emissions. Over 50% of the UK’s electric car club vehicles are now operated by Co-wheels.

As well as individuals, hundreds of businesses across the UK have signed up to Co-wheels car club to share vehicles in a much more co-operative way that is not only financially beneficial but also more convenient. It is only £25 pounds to sign up and hourly rates of car hire starts from £3.45.

“In the last two years, we have grown the car club significantly, which has given us an excellent platform from which to grow – but we still recognise there is so much more potential. A car club with its environmental and social impacts thoroughly embedded is one which will achieve a much greater level of societal change than one with personal financial gain as the main driver,” adds Falconer.

Surplus generated is used to further develop the capacity in existing locations as well as investing into new locations, quite often those more deprived locations. Putting more electric vehicles into the network is also another company target.

Figures of usage is promising in terms of protecting the environment as 64 per cent of car club members do not own a car, 33 per cent respondents have reduced the number of vehicles owned by their household since joining the car club. Of members who have got rid of a car, 61% report that the car club was the main reason, or a major factor, whilst only 19% report it had no effect.

The company also offers an on-line fleet management solution for organisations, which enables a unique interaction between travel modes. The system gives users options for planning business activity. In particular, it encourages active travel and lessens the need for commuting by car. The use of telematic technology allows fleet resources to be shared between corporate travel, private use by staff members and the general public. The service is now in operation across the UK with over 18 Local Authorities, NHS Trusts and other public sector organisations. In some cities, NHS and fire services use the same fleet of vehicles after signing up to reduce costs.

“The Social Value Act it is working for us. In the early days, not many officers heard but now procurement officers understand the benefits of working with social enterprises,” emphasises Falconer.

To expand the network further and more rapidly, Co-wheels offers a social franchise package to members of local communities which would enable them to run their car clubs independently in a bid to increase activism and to create better transport networks in their local communities.

UK Social Enterprise Awards, the national competition, now in its 15th year, recognises the work and achievements of Britain’s most inspiring and successful social enterprises. There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK.



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