In 2005, Lyon launched the revolution in terms of the sharing economy by setting up the bike-sharing system Velo’V. The two wheels of JcDecaux are still highly successful; nevertheless, reproducing the sharing scheme with cars appears to be more complicated than expected. Between Autolib, Car2Go, SunMoov, Bluely, now Wattmobile Grand Lyon benefits from a large palette of car-sharing services competing with each other.
How and why some of the implemented car sharing services failed? How and why some of them will probably soon disappear from the market? The following few paragraphs show the important coordination role that public authorities and related stakeholders have to play when implementing mobility services for their cities.
Autolib, is this the end for Lyon’s car sharing pioneer?
Autolib having had a share of the market since 2008 reported a deficit in 2013 that exceeded one million euros. The first car-sharing service in Lyon is now considered as “not having sufficient flexibility” the main reason stated being the car if taken from one specific place e.g. LPA (Lyon Parc Auto) must then be returned to the same place. Supported by Greater Lyon Autolib service deemed as revolutionary 5 years ago… But nowadays society is more demanding and requires flexible services especially when it comes to city mobility. Autolib is now in a state of uncertainty and its future remains unclear. As reported by the magazine “Lyon Capitale” in July 2014, Autolib is now in a state of uncertainty and its future in Lyon remains unclear.
Why can CAR2GO succeed in some of the largest cities in Europe but failed in Lyon?
Not many have heard about Car2Go’s experience in Lyon…Car2Go is a German company, subsidiary of Daimler AG providing car sharing services in some of the largest cities in the world: Vancouver, Toronto, Washington, Miami, Berlin, and most recently Rome. For the first time, in 2012, Lyon’s Urban Community agreed on the implementation of 200 environmentally friendly cars “easy-to rent, easy-to drive”, and located everywhere in the city. However, the service was unexpectedly suspended only 4 months after its launch due to copyright issues. In spite of the short period of its presence in Lyon Car2Go attracted 2 500 users. Even though the project turned into a failure where the City Council holds a part of the responsibility, Car2Go’s experience proved that car-sharing has a bright future in the city.
Why a year after its “sunrise” SunMoov is now closer to its “sunset”?
In September 2013, NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Japan) and Grand Lyon launched together SunMoov, a fleet of 30 electric cars at 6 car stations with several charging points at each, comprising cars from Peugeot, Citroën C-Zero and Mitsubishi. But attention, the service is exclusively limited to Lyon Smart Community area.
A demonstration site or a smart but gated community?
Lyon Confluence, a showcase for urban innovation is in fact a significant project aimed to double the surface of Lyon’s city centre and to change the declining image of the area. This crucial urban regeneration project became Lyon Smart Community, a playground for demonstrating smart solutions for sustainable development. The choice of limiting SunMoov services to Lyon Confluence area seems to be justified by the “smart and innovative” aspect of the service. However, a month later, in October 2013 Greater Lyon launched a new car sharing service for the rest of the city with 100% electric cars, called “Bluely” funded entirely by the French group Bolloré. The service was a great success amongst the end users and became a “vitrine” for the city and a real symbol of sustainable urban mobility in Lyon.
The number of Bluely cars is increasing constantly since its first implementation: from 130 in 2013, the number of Bluely cars will reach 250 in 2014, with already more than 1 700 registered regular users. Over 3000 members are expected by the end of 2014. The service is user-friendly, practical and flexible, financially acceptable, hence very popular within Lyon’s citizens. Evidently, SunMoov did not achieve the same level of success as Bluely. Moreover, it has been considered a real “fiasco” as reported by the local press.
Could SunMoov and Bluely coexist? In other words, could interoperability be a solution?
From the very beginning the decision to limit the service to the Confluence area created doubts amongst local stakeholders and potential users. The two systems are technically incompatible. Consequently, there is no alternative solution that can help SunMoov to extend its perimeter. On one hand, SunMoov cannot use Bluelys’ recharging points. On the other, Bluely is not allowed to implement its cars in Confluence area.
In order to protect the complete decline of the SunMoov system, the City took the decision to not allow Bluely cars to be implemented in the Confluence area. In doing so, effectively, the city is encouraging the segregation of SunMoov. One will continue to grow, the other risks disappearing from the market. Those who suffer the most from this bitter experience are the end users and in particular the inhabitants of Lyon Confluence area, those who will be the future smart citizens in the smart community.
How could this situation be avoided in the future? Perhaps with more collaboration, cross-sector strategies, and strong implementation requirements…Regardless of the answer, future smart cities should not become gated communities, although a smart city is above all a “clever” city with proactive thinking.