Free floating is a service for sharing vehicles (personal transportation devices, scooters, cars) without fixed stations. The idea is simple: to make transportation options publicly available all over a city, without a central base. It’s a model for shared mobility that is taking off in Europe.
Free floating, i.e. stationless transportation-sharing services, mark a miniature revolution. Up until recently, options for urban mobility relied on networks of fixed stations where you could pick up or return a vehicle. The arrival of free floating is shaking up urban transportation and the ways we get around our cities.
Goodbye being tied down, hello freedom! By using the free floating car sharing model, you can use electric vehicles without ever having to worry about connecting to a charge point. Indeed, you pick up and drop off the vehicle at any location within the geographical boundaries determined by the operator.
At the risk of oversimplifying, free floating is made possible by technological innovations and relies on the use of cars loaded with electronics. Once you’ve downloaded the right app to your phone, you can geolocate a nearby vehicle that you want to borrow.
Once you are near the vehicle, all you need is your mobile phone to lock or unlock it. At the end of your drive, payment is made by direct debit from your pre-registered bank card. When it’s time to return the vehicle, you simply have to make sure that you are within the geographical zone permitted. Thanks once again to geolocation, the vehicle is available for a new user.
Fully self-service and thus without restrictions, free floating car sharing of electric vehicles offers users a large degree of flexibility.
It offers an alternative solution to travel needs in cities that favour a multiplicity of transportation options, and one that is responsive to each of our needs and desires.
With free floating car sharing, there is no longer a need to make a reservation beforehand, nor to worry about the availability of a designated parking space upon reaching your destination. Simple and affordable for users, this mobility model makes it possible to use a vehicle only when needed, as is already the case with “classic” electric car sharing, but also where needed, thanks to the geolocation system that detects vehicles available nearby. Free floating car sharing is popular with local authorities because it doesn’t require the installation of any dedicated charging infrastructure.
Finally, in zones with traffic or parking restrictions, free floating car sharing provides all the pre-existing benefits of electric car sharing, while also promoting eco-mobility: our city centres thus become less congested, less noisy and less polluted.
For the last two years, free floating has been gaining support in Europe. It especially has the wind in its sails in Germany: the number of car sharing service users has grown by 21.1%, reaching 1.26 million users. Two thirds of them use free floating car sharing services.
We can count Zity in Madrid among the free floating car sharing services most recently started by Renault, in collaboration with its partners. It makes no less than 650 Renault ZOEs available to the inhabitants of the Castilian city for self-service use. In Paris, Zity is also launched to meet the mobility needs of visitors to and residents of Île-de-France. In collaboration with the city of Paris, 500 Renault ZOEs are at the service of users there as of 2020. Finally, in Amsterdam, Fetch Car Sharing, a new electric car sharing service that follows the free floating model was launched on January 10th. 200 ZOEs now roll through the Dutch capital, providing a new mobility option to the Venice of the North, infamous for its parking problem.
And the examples of operators offering free floating ZOEs all over Europe don’t stop there.
The numbers prove the growth of car sharing, especially in urban areas where 25 to 30% of users have abandoned private car ownership. When combined with electric vehicles, free floating meets the needs of on-demand or sometimes daily travel. This car sharing model makes mobility synonymous with more freedom, savings and environmentalism.
Copyrights: iStock, Pim Hendriksen, Olivier Martin-Gambier