Electric vehicles have un-masked combustion engines' true identity: noisy, overly complicated and just somewhat monsterous machines from the past. In an urban setting electric mobility will soon prove to be better at just about everything. Silent, more fun and ecological - and overall simply much more likeable.


Besides petrol technology, the traditional model of individual ownership is fundamentally put into question too. Why attach oneself to one and a half tons of metal? If most of the time they sit idle in a hard to find parking spot, doing little more than generate cost? Vehicle sharing beats ownership on all of these fronts.


Both ideas are beyond the concept phase. Shared electric vehicles of the latest generation already populate the streets of Berlin. Shown as follows: DriveNow, a BMW backed car sharing operator has added the BMW i3 to its fleet. And eMio, a little Berlin startup that is sprinkling the city with red electric scooters.

Reason enough for the Museum to put both concepts to a review.


Meet the contestants, David & Goliath

DriveNow was among the first to establish free floating* car sharing at a large scale. DriveNow is backed by BMW, one of the world's most successful premium car manufacturers, and Sixt, one of Germany's largest car rental companies. DriveNow operates a fleet of around 4000 cars in 9 cities in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the UK.

eMio on the other hand is a tiny Berlin start up that has begun operations only in 2015. It is the first operator of free floating* electric scooter sharing. In terms of experience and in terms of access to capital DriveNow has a very clear head start. Does the newcomer stand a chance?

Free floating means, there are no fix pick-up and return stations. Rental periods can begin an end anywhere within the city.

Availability is key

Shared mobility solutions will only succeed if vehicles are at least as immediately available as other transport options.

DriveNow cars are becoming more and more ubiquitous on the streets of Berlin. The nearest car for hire is rarely further than a 10 minute walk away. The bulk of the DriveNow fleet consists of combustion powered Minis and BMWs, but electric powered BMW i3s are becoming more and more plentiful too.

The red eMio scooters have literally popped up out of nowhere over the summer of 2015 but coverage is not as dense as it's large competitor's.

Shared individual mobility will probably remain complementary to other public transport options. From a sustainability angle car and scooter sharing have already raised the big question: Does shared mobility really reduce the number of vehicles on the streets? Or are people who would otherwise have taken the metro now back on their own wheels? And if so, would owning a bicycle not still be the most ecological and economical way to get around cities? The verdict is still out. In the meantime however the availability point goes to DriveNow.

There is an app for that

The smart phone has enabled the sharing revolution. With location based information in real time at your fingertips, car keys are a thing of the past.

Both eMio's and DriveNow's interfaces are easy and intuitve to navigate. Available vehicles are displayed on a city map and can be reserved for a period of 15 minutes. Once having arrived at the vehicle, the car/the helmet box is unlocked through the app. Following a short authentication process and damage check one is all set to go in a matter of about a minute.

The DriveNow app seems quite slow and unstable at times and feels like it offers too many functions without apparent use. In comparison the eMio app works stable and smooth and offers spot-on functionality. eMio then takes the app chapter and wins back a point.

Wheels, a tesla coil and a battery

Once set in motion, the BMW i3 and the eMio Scooter really start to shine; they are both highly enjoyable transportation machines! Zooming around Berlin in a sleek and very agile electric BMW beats almost all available alternatives in comfort, fun and style. The impressive acceleration puts a smile on the face of even the most car averse Berlin hippster. In terms of city cars, the i3 has set a new standard - and it's large weakness, the very limited electric range, is never an issue within city limits.

Though much less powerful in a straight line, when it comes to start-to-finish time the eMio scooter might be one of the quickest vehicles around. Slipping through traffic, giving its riders the enjoyment of a full 360° view in all absence of engine noise an eMio scooter leaves cars and cyclists far behind. Feeling very connected to one's surroundings, this might be the best of all ways to whizz around Berlin - on a warm summer day at least.

The BMW i3 is a very refined machine. It is one of the very few cars that were planned and designed to be fully electric. While few think of it as pretty, it is very convincing as a whole, its looks scream for the attention this car deserves: It is the messiah of a better, electric future. This apparently does not need much explanation, most people react very positively to the car. It turns heads. It is also hughely popular among DriveNow users and if available alongside other cars, will often be taken first.

In comparison the eMio looks just like a regular scooter. Standing still nothing gives away it's purely electric soul. It is hard to deny that this is a foregone opportunity to create something more exciting. But scooters just exist in a different, less dynamic market environment that leave its producers with much poorer R&D and design departments. Nonetheless: using simple and affordable technology the eMio scooter is a very convincing package. Everything works intuitively. And the fact that it doesn't make a fuss about itself is quite likeable too.

The vehicle section remains without a winner. On a sunny day, the eMio beats even the superb i3. On a cold day however it loses by a far margin.

Nice, but what does it cost?

This leaves the cost as the last point for one of the contestents to clearly pull ahead of the other.

Both eMio and DriveNow charge a one-off sign up fee of around 20 Euros. Once signed up, all cost is pay-per-use, there is no monthly subscription fee. DriveNow charges 0.34 € per minute (and 0.31 € for all non-convertible Minis) - which includes all electricity/gas and parking cost. Assuming that a typical ride in Berlin takes around 30 minutes (including search for a parking spot) one typically ends up paying around 10 € for the ride. Considering that a public transport ticket would have cost only 2.70€ and riding a privately owned bike would have cost practically nothing while only being marginally slower, only compared to a taxi can car sharing be described as a cheap affair. Cost comes down of course as soon as one takes along a couple of friends. Also, for longer trips or shopping tours the convenience gain vs. bike and public transport is more significant.

You might have guessed it - the tiny eMios are a lot cheaper to rent. eMio charges 0.19 € per minute use. Considering you whizz through traffic faster and don't need to waste any time on searching a parking spot, the average ride takes usually no longer than 20 minutes, the ride price often ends up below 4 €. There are always a large and a small helmet in the helmet box, so you can always take one passanger of the opposite gender along. Usually they quite like it.

Long story short: these two transport options are neither for every city, nor for everybody nor are they stand alone solutions. They complement existing transport options. Their use cases vary significantly. eMio is fun, fast and cheap - but viable only on a warm enough and non-rainy day. DriveNow is comfortable, versatile and practical when transporting bulky items or a few friends - but too pricey to use for every trip and too annoying when going to a place where parking spots are a rarity. And there is no way around admitting: the best complement remains a bicycle that is still the unbeatably cost efficient and ecological means for moving around the city.

Rather then assessing which one is better, let's see them together as one. Free floating car and scooter sharing as it is already available in Berlin and a few other cities today has almost completely eliminated the need to privately own a car. It has added great comfort, flexibility, cost savings (and fun) to the lives of many urbanites who no longer need to waste their time thinking about buying, selling, servicing, insuring and repairing their cars or scooters. It thereby represents the perhaps greatest and most successful step towards the brave new world of the sharing economy.

The Transport Museum can't wait to see what other solutions the future of urban mobility will have in store.

Pictures and text contributed by Lukas von Rantzau (www.LUPHO.de). All rights reserved.

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