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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing Early Market Potential for Carsharing in China: A Case Study of Beijing


China’s economic expansion is fueling an accelerated demand for private vehicles. While China’s growing motorization is similar to that of other developing nations, the scale of this growth is unprecedented. Personal motorization provides numerous benefits to individuals and society; however, roadway congestion, parking inefficiencies, and environmental challenges typically accompany widespread auto use in urban areas. Carsharing is an innovative transportation demand management strategy, which can offer its members the convenience and flexibility of vehicle ownership at lower cost. It has also demonstrated environmental and social benefits.

In Spring 2006, the authors implemented an 840-person intercept survey within Beijing to explore carsharing familiarity and response. The questionnaire assessed respondents’ travel patterns and needs, vehicle purchase intentions, and carsharing interest. The results indicate a potential demand for carsharing services. Over 25% of respondents expressed a high level of interest in carsharing. Interestingly, only 40% of this group was previously familiar with the concept. Those “interested in carsharing” are more inclined to take transit, bicycle, and walk and have slightly higher income and education levels. While respondents “interested in carsharing” are less auto-reliant than those who are “uninterested” (18% vs. 21% drive alone), a higher proportion of the former (30% vs. 15%) indicated a planned vehicle purchase/lease. Since only 21% of respondents reported that they are able to drive, driver education may be critical to future carsharing adoption. Despite this finding, survey results indicate a notable interest in carsharing as an alternative to vehicle ownership among urban residents in China.

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