15 January 2024

Would you sell your car and join a carpool instead? LiU researcher Brenda Nansubuga has studied several sharing services. She concludes that services that combine different modes of transport are easier to make profitable.

Female researcher in teaching and at office. Brenda Nansubuga, researcher, economy and management. Ulrik Svedin

“What I’ve seen in my studies of different services is that there is a lack of flexibility. Each sharing service often focuses on just one means of transport, when you as a user may need several different ones. For example, a bus in combination with an electric scooter,” says Brenda Nansubuga.
Female researcher in teaching and at office.Brenda Nansubuga, teaches in economy and management at Linköping University. Photo credit Ulrik Svedin
A problem for many transport sharing services is profitability. Large investments may be required in apps, electric bicycles, electric scooters or cars. And there is a great amount of risk due to uncertainty about demand.

Relevant for both

“Most people, when you ask them, say they want to live more sustainably. A car usually stands still, maybe 90 % of the time. But you still want your own car. You still want your own things. And this causes a problem for companies that come up with these access business models. They don’t get enough customers.”

This is what Brenda Nansubuga’s research questions are all about.

“A car usually stands still,
maybe 90 % of the time.
But you still want your own car.”

“I’ve studied how these models can be relevant for both the supplier and the customer. And ultimately work and become profitable.”

She has studied an existing model called Mobility as a Service (MaaS). It aims to bring together several modes of transport and suppliers within the same platform.

“For example, an app for car sharing, electric bicycles, electric scooters, but also for public transport. It may be a model that will make sharing more interesting for users and more profitable for suppliers.”

"Need to agree"
The MaaS model has been tested in a few places, including Gothenburg, Stockholm and Finland. But there are challenges. One is to combine private companies with public transport in the platform.

Female researcher in teaching and at office.Brenda Nansubuga, researcher, economy and management. Photo credit Ulrik Svedin “The actors need to agree. That can be difficult when they are driven by different goals. The private operator may be more motivated by profitability, while the public sector may be motivated by the service being available and being good for users.”

But, from that study, Brenda Nansubuga concludes that if the MaaS model is to be the solution, a way must be found for the actors to collaborate. In her next study, she therefore chose to examine a business model for the relationship between companies, business-to-business. In collaboration with a major car manufacturer, she studied a subscription model for cars.

Similiar pattern

“Then I saw a similar pattern. The challenges we found in the previous studies were also present here. Difficulties with demand and collaboration.”
Business model assumptions

When she looked closely into the studies, she noted that many models often assume that the user will stop owning completely, and start borrowing, leasing or renting when necessary.

“During my research process, I’ve realised that even if you say we shouldn’t own things, but share them, not many people are willing to do it. At least, not entirely.”

“Although they own their own scooter,
they want to rent one when needed."

Therefore, she started a new study of how people use electric scooters and how it affects interest in getting one of their own. At first, she saw that the interest in buying an own electric scooter increased, if you were already a user of the rental service. This could lead to increased consumption and reduced use of rental services.
Different thinking

“We’ve always assumed that as soon as you’ve bought your own, you no longer want to rent. But the users in my study didn’t think that way. They were most interested in being able to transport themselves from point A to point B. Although they own their own scooter, they want to rent one when needed.”

According to Brenda Nansubuga, this may mean that a more flexible approach to sharing services is needed, at least during a transitional period. Demand and need have to be coordinated based on this knowledge of the customers.

Own and rent

“It’s possible, for example, that the purchase of new private cars is about to level out, and that the sharing services will expand. But profitable business models are needed. Part of this can be to adapt the service from the point of view that users want to both own and rent depending on the needs they have at the moment,” says Brenda Nansubuga.



Read more

Kvinnlig forskare i kontors- och undervisningsmiljö. Foto: Ulrik Svedin
Doctoral thesis: Brenda Nansubuga (2023) Ownership or Access? A study of mobility services in the access economy

DOI: 10.3384/9789180753593 

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