Wellington car-share outfit Mevo is poised to enter the Auckland market after an Auckland Transport policy review fell in its favour. Its key rival Cityhop has its nose out of joint, however.
Mevo co-founder and chief executive Erik Zydervelt was hoping AT would allow "free-floating" car-share parks - giving a lot more freedom over where a vehicle can be picked up and dropped off; more public car park spaces designated for car-share vehicles; and subsidised spaces.
The council-controlled AT came through on all counts in a new car share policy approved by its board on October 22 and made public this week. It greenlights the "free-floating" model, boosts the number of reserved on-street spaces for car-share operators from 125 to 400, and offers a 30 per cent discount on those spaces for each approved operator's first 12 months of operation.
Forget, say, picking up a car-share vehicle in Hobsonville Point (to take a random example) then having to drop it off in the same area. You'll soon be able to pick up car-share vehicle in a far-flung suburb then drop it off in the CBD or at the airport.
AT's new policy and incentives don't extend to peer-to-peer services like YouDrive, which facilitate members of the public sharing each other's cars.
Mevo always had broad plans to expand into Auckland. Zydervelt says AT's new policy crystallised its intentions, and has seen it set a timeframe - the first half of next year.
The CEO says his company will also undertake a major capital raise in the New Year as it gears up to enter the city.
The sector has been attracting energy company interest.
Mevo's largest investor is Z Energy, with a 32 per cent stake as part of a diversification play. Zydervelt expects a mix of current and new investors to participate.
'Star-struck' police wrong to hand gun registry contract to SAP
Electric car-share attracts more funding from Z Energy
And in August, Genesis paid $2 million for a 40 per cent stake in Christchurch EV car-share start-up Yoogo, which launched last year with 100 pure EVs
Mevo and other car-sharing outfits let you rent a car by the hour - unlocking, booking and paying for the vehicle via an app. If you've used a Lime scooter, it's a similar deal - only with cars (and a need for a licence scan and check before your first ride).
In Mevo's case, it charges Wellingtonians $15 an hour for a petrol-powered Volkswagen Polo, or $23/hr for an Audi a3 e-tron electric car. Auckland incumbent Cityhop charges from $9.50 an hour (for a petrol-powered Toyota Yaris) to $15 an hour (for a VW e-Golf). Both operators' hourly fees are inclusive of insurance and refuelling - or recharging - costs, and there are no monthly fees.
Mevo began life in Wellington with a "return to base" model, meaning you had to drop off a vehicle in the same carpark as you picked it up. You rented your car from a space near Te Papa and you had to return it to space near Te Papa.
But it subsequently negotiated a "free-floating" model with Wellington City Council in May 2018 that allowed customers to leave a Mevo car in any council-approved car park around the city - meaning a car could be swiped open in the CBD then left at the airport, for example. Suddenly, car sharing became a lot more practical.
Zydervelt won't give financials, but says Mevo has grown 300 per cent in the capital since the council gave the green-light for free-floating parks.
Now, after months of consultation, Auckland Transport has backed free-floating, too - and is offering a 30 per cent subsidy on council-controlled parking spaces for vehicles from approved car-share companies.
Zydervelt says the mechanics are still being worked out, but it's probable Mevo's smartphone app will link with AT's app for securing spaces.
While exact plans have yet to be finalised, the Mevo boss sees his company having a number of home zones around Auckland where its car-share vehicles are clustered. Hobsonville Point, Smales Farm, the CBD, Wynyard Quarter and the airport are all on Zydervelt's current target-list for home zones.
The idea is that you'll be able to pick up a Mevo vehicle in one home zone, then drop it off in another.
Cityhop boss Ben Carter was as angry with AT's new policy as Mevo's CEO was happy.
"We are very disappointed with AT's approach to this policy, its seeming disregard for the investment Cityhop has made to Auckland's car-sharing infrastructure to date, and how our membership may be affected. We're considering our response to AT," he told the Herald.
Whereas Mevo's Zydervelt sees free-floating as the key to unlocking car-share usability and growth, Carter sees it leading to a "self-driving taxi" setup that undermines public transport efforts.
Carter said Cityhop - recently bought out by Toyota Finance - had 150 vehicles in its fleet, mostly in Auckland but with 25 in the capital.
Zydervelt would not comment on vehicle numbers, but his company's app indicates it has around 60 in Wellington.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority recently gave Mevo a $500,000 grant toward 100 new battery-powered electric vehicles ("BEVs" or "pure EVs"). Zydervelt said today that these 100 EVs would form the basis of his company's Auckland fleet.
EV owners jostling for scarce public chargers won't necessarily welcome the edition of 100 new electric vehicles. Zydervelt said a charger partnership, which will be revealed closer to his company's Auckland launch, will address this issue.
Mevo won't reveal how many people use its service in the capital.
Taking cars off the road
Some transport advocates will instinctively bridle at any solution involving cars, but car-share boosters say the model is more efficient, reduces emissions and leads to fewer cars on roads.
In September, Carter said, Cityhop's 150 cars are used by 5000 members.
Carter claims that every Cityhop vehicle takes nine to 15 cars off the road and that after joining the service, the average member drives 2000km less per year - meaning "our members cut CO2 by 1,000,000kg every year".
Zydervelt reels off similar stats and says car-share companies can be a key reason why a two-car family decides to go one-car.
Christchurch operator also looking north
Genesis-based Zilch (formerly) Yoogo, which currently has just a couple of vehicles in Auckland, based at the CityWorks depot, but is also eyeing expansion in the city.
All going to plan, Zilch with have 50 cars in Auckland by this time next year, General manager Kirsten Croson said.
In Auckland, Zilch, currently has a round-trip model, but with the injection of new cars next year, a CBD-to-airport option will be added.
Corson told the Herald her company has 50 business and 2000 private customers in Christchurch, and that booking options now include unlocking a Zilch in the city and dropping it off at the airport for a flat $22 rate.
Zilch offers various payment options, including an e-scooter-like 46c per minute.
EVs should have got more of price-break
While broadly positive on AT's new policy, Corson says, "We would have liked to have seen different rates for BEV, PHEV and ICE [intrunal combustion engine] vehicles to encourage uptake BEV across the city."
That would be convenient for Zilch's business model of owning an all-EV fleet.
But Corson added it would also be in line with the city's declaration on working toward fossil fuel-free streets. "Auckland Council and AT have said they're committed that they want to have emission-free areas by 2030. We're in a climate emergency," she noted.
Car-share operators have tended to stick to their own countries, but Lime - best known for its scooters - has ambitions to expand its LimePod carshare operation worldwide, including cities in New Zealand.
However, a trial in Seattle, where Lime has a licence for up to 400 LimePods (petrol-powered Fiat 500s) on the road, has run into a degree of controversy after the shared cars were used for crime and high-jinx. At this point, the company has no fixed timeline for expanding beyond the Seattle trial.