Research in brief: Study sheds light on electric car sharing schemes

Electric car sharing schemes have been developed in many different cities and towns around the world as part of policy initiatives to reduce environmental pollution and congestion, notably in urban areas. Two of the key factors for developing effective car sharing schemes are understanding consumers’ underlying motivations and different patterns of usage.



Temps de lecture

4 min


A new study published in the Annals of Operations Research focuses on an electric vehicle sharing (EVS) scheme running in the city of Shenzen in China and aims to shed light on these two factors.

Researchers from IÉSEG School of Management and Beijing Institute of Technology collected and analyzed data from the in-vehicle sensors of 3,100 electric vehicles with approximately 1.03 million pieces of driving data used in this car sharing scheme. They also calculated carbon emissions per mile and compared these for different types of usage.

Findings highlight different usage patterns and unexpected results for emissions

“People often assume that such schemes are generally used for short-distance travel and that such usage will automatically reduce carbon emissions,” explains Professor Chavi FLETCHER-CHEN from IÉSEG. “However, the results of this scheme in China show that there were actually a number of different usage patterns and also that there were some unexpected outcomes in terms of carbon emissions.”

The scheme was indeed used for short trips (often within the city), for example to go to work, shops, restaurants or even hospitals. However, the EVS was also used for longer trips and longer leasing durations, for example for work-related reasons, or even for tourism. The longest journeys could even exceed 166km minimum (up to 400km) in distance and last several hours.

Use in urban areas was mostly concentrated in commercial and residential areas, not only in the morning and evening peaks, but also around noon. Significant use on weekends and holidays also highlights that such schemes are used for a variety of non- work or personal motives.

Finally the study also highlighted that such schemes were also used in combination with public transport (ie metro/train).

Short distance travel did not bring the expected environmental benefits

In terms of emissions, Professor Chen Fletcher notes that short distance travel did not bring low-carbon benefits that were expected. “We found that that carbon emissions per unit mileage of short distance travel were even higher than that of traditional fuel vehicles (as high as 500 g/km, which was almost twice that of ordinary fuel vehicles). On the contrary, the long-distance travel patterns had the best emission reduction effects, even though the overall emissions were higher. She notes this might be partly linked to the speed of travel – as short journeys were generally associated with slower journey times.

Practical applications

The researchers note these findings have several applications for EVS providers and policymakers. For people who intend to use such schemes for short-distance travel, they argue that guidance can be given to users about the level of emissions so that consumers are aware and can make informed decisions.

They also explain that EVS operators could consider offering different tarifs (per mile/km) depending on the overall mileage: for example the longer the journey the lower the unit price.

To reassure users who are concerned about problems with battery charge, the paper also notes the importance of improving the availability of charging facilities in areas where consumer demand is higher and that this should be based on real data. In the case of Shenzhen this included restaurants, and commercial areas for example. Likewise, they also note the importance of ensuring the availability of charging facilities near to public transportation, which can promote the continuation of low-carbon travel on metro/buses/train.

Finally, policymakers can consider what they refer to as parking optimization and preferential parking policies. This could include subsidized parking fees for users of such schemes, or exclusive parking spaces in public lots to avoid users being put off using the scheme.

More information is available in the paper:
*“Sustainable operations in electric vehicles’ sharing: behavioral patterns and carbon emissions with digital technologies”( Annals of Operations Research (2023) Bin Zhang & Yi Yi (Beijing Institute of Technology), Chavi Chi-Yun Fletcher-Chen (IÉSEG School of Management, Univ. Lille, CNRS, UMR 9221 – LEM – Lille Economie Management), Pengyu Zou & Zhaohua Wang (Beijing Institute of Technology)

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CSR, Sustainability & DiversityManagement & Society




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