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Blog Post 16 June 2021

Everything you need to know about car clubs

In 2020, the number of journeys made in the UK by car dropped drastically, as lockdown restrictions encouraged people to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons.

Many of us dusted off old bikes or simply walked to make shorter trips. Choosing to travel in this way has many benefits, including improving health, saving money and reducing carbon emissions.

In fact, a December 2020 report found that globally, Covid-19 lockdowns had caused fossil carbon dioxide emissions to drop by a record 2.4 billion tonnes – with emissions from transport accounting for the largest share of the decrease.

As restrictions have now almost entirely been lifted, it’s likely people will return to old habits and start using the car to make regular journeys. However, if you don’t own a car or want to continue taking advantage of the benefits of active travel, there is an alternative for those journeys when a car is essential: car clubs.

Here, we delve into the benefits of becoming a car club member and take a closer look at some successful community car clubs in Scotland.

What is a car club?

Car clubs offer instant access to cars in and around your local area without the need for you to own a car yourself. By signing up for an annual membership you only need to pay as you drive.

They can be a cheaper alternative to a second car, and are also suitable for those who don’t drive very often, but who still need access to a car for some journeys.

Club cars are, on average, newer than the average UK car, which means they are safer and more comfortable to drive, emit 43% less carbon dioxide from tailpipe emissions, and there are often electric vehicle choices available.

What are the benefits of joining a car club?

If you are an infrequent driver and only need to make occasional journeys by car, then a car club membership could work for you. The benefits of car clubs include:

  • Helping you be more active, as you walk from destination to the club car.
  • They are convenient and simple to use – simply book the car, turn up, drive away and return to a car club parking location.
  • They are potentially cheaper than a private car, as you don’t have to pay costs associated with maintenance, road tax or insurance. You only pay as you drive.

If you have a car that is only needed for the occasional journey, consider replacing your vehicle with a car club membership. Check out CoMoUK’s Map to find car club locations and options near to where you live.

Community car club case studies

Car clubs can also support specific organisations or communities. In Scotland, the Plugged-in Communities Grant is an opportunity for not-for-profit housing associations, housing cooperatives and constituted community groups to apply for funding to procure the services of a zero-emission car club vehicle, for use by their tenants and the wider local community.

Communities have benefitted from the setting up electric car clubs, helping residents to save money, reduce carbon emissions and improve local air quality.

Ore Valley case study

Keen to make the local communities they serve more sustainable, Ore Valley Housing Association in Fife looked at transport options and costs, and realised the potential to offer an alternative form of zero emission, shared mobility transport

They decided to set up an all-electric car club, which would help local residents save money, at the same time as improving local air quality, as the vehicles are all 100% electric. Ore Valley already had two public electric vehicle (EV) charging points in place, which made it easier to set up a 10-vehicle electric car club.

Established in partnership with Enterprise Car Club, the cars are available at five locations across Fife, creating a network of EVs for the local community. Users can use their phone or bank card to access the vehicles, and Enterprise experts are available 24/7 to help.

During lockdown, access to vehicles helped many make essential journeys. By offering a convenient and cost-effective transport option, Ore Valley hopes to see the local community taking advantage of the affordable and low carbon transport alternative.

Melville Housing Association case study

Melville Housing Association set up its first zero emission car club in 2019, which ran until October 2020. Five fully electric vehicles were available to hire across Midlothian, providing tenants and locals with a low carbon, zero emission transport option.

The housing association was keen to be more sustainable and wanted to lead the way in green initiatives. Working closely with their chosen operator, E-Car Club, the association launched its car club in October 2019.

The club was free to join with bookings made online, via the app, by text or over the phone. In the first six months, tenants, staff and the wider community saw a steady increase in bookings and hours used. Even when lockdown was announced in March 2020, the cars were made available for free to those helping out local communities until the scheme ended in October 2020.

The Plugged-in Communities Grant is funded by Transport Scotland and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.

Last updated: 11 June 2021