How much do you think road congestion costs the EU? 130 billion euros per year. That is close to 1% of the EU’s GDP according to the European Urban Mobility report of the EU Commission published in 2017. This same year, London was the number one most congested city in Europe (7th worldwide), followed by Paris (12th). Compared to 2016, cities such as Brussels have improved: the Belgian capital jumped from 71st to 101st place in 2017. But it still does not mean that its commuting situation is ideal .
Last September, Greenfish posted its first White Paper about mobility to express its wish to pursue mindset changes towards greener commuting and to highlight many of the initiatives that have already been introduced within the company. Today, our attention is with another hot topic: Mobility as a Service (MaaS). This concept, applied for commuting, concerns a rising global trend: people tend to pay more and more for the usage rather than for the ownership of something. With MaaS, instead of owning a vehicle, you can share it with either a monthly subscription or a pay-as-you-go system. In order for MaaS to be efficiently organized, a digital platform needs to exist .
A common example of MaaS is car sharing, or free-floating. One car is shared by several users, and this is becoming especially popular in big cities  . This topic embraces our sustainable mindset: with more effective transportation, not only does it reduce congestion, it also reduces pollution. In fact, one shared car is proven to replace between 4 to 10 privately-owned cars . In the corporate context, it is an alternative to company cars, which take up more than 15% of car parks of a country like Belgium today , and they are becoming more and more popular . However, the Federation of Belgian Companies (FEB) claims that companies are not ready to share cars and are waiting for better financial incentives . For Greenfish, this White Paper is an opportunity to shed light on the fiscal aspects linked to car-sharing and on the existing solutions, taking Belgium as an example. Additionally, this should help to identify and display initiatives taken to counter some of the current obstacles to car sharing.
Car sharing VS car ownership
Employers have to take into consideration the costs of their employees’ commuting, including those related to company cars: insurance, fuel, maintenance, parking,… Sharing cars, along with a more rational car use, would allow to reduce some of these costs and to avoid considerable investments.
Taxation is another determining factor of the cost related to company cars. In some countries it is favourable, both for an employer and an employee, to turn to company cars. This is the case in Belgium for instance, where there is this ubiquitous belief that company cars are cheaper than alternatives. For a company, tax deduction of the costs related to company cars depends on the CO2 emissions of the car. It varies between 50 and 120% . In comparison, the Belgian law regarding car sharing is less clear: car sharing is considered as being a collective transportation mode managed by the employer. Therefore, the fiscal ground remains more advantageous, as the related costs are 120% tax deductible .
If the investment costs of car sharing are low and the fiscal grounds are encouraging, why is this alternative mode of transportation not a norm for companies yet? Let us take car sharing service providers in Belgium as an example to help illustrate our point and find answers to this question.
Example: The Belgian offer has been expanding since 2015
The landscape of Belgian sharing service providers is bilateral. On the one hand, some organizations are founded with the purpose of offering a car sharing solution only (digital app, fleet, parking spots…). On the other hand, existing leasing companies design their offer to include car sharing and reap the benefits of this promising market.
On the scatterplot below, we have depicted and classified car sharing applications that create and offer solutions to Belgian companies (car renting apps are excluded from the selection, so are apps of companies that do not have an own float because they generally do not offer business packages). The providers are differentiated based on two aspects:
- The horizontal axis separates the applications that offer electric vehicles (Zen Car and Partago) from the ones offering only internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. Ubeeqo stands in the middle as it has some electric and some ICE cars in its fleet.
- The vertical axis divides the car sharing service providers depending on the easiness of dropping off the cars: on the lower hand, Bolides, Partago, Drive Now and Zipcar allow users to drop off their car anywhere while the other providers (Cambio, Stapp.in, Ubeequo and Zen Car) require drivers to park in designated parking spots.
Figure 1 – Belgian car sharing service providers
A further distinction is made regarding the fleet size, i.e. how many cars are at the users’ disposal, indicated by the size of the dot. Cambio is the biggest (around 860 cars) and thus the most prominent car sharing service provider. Drive Now and Zip Car are also very present in the Belgian capital, with 310 and 250 cars respectively. The table below gives details about the car sharing service providers, while explaining the discrepancies in fleet sizes. For instance, Cambio is active on the whole Belgian territory and is older, whereas other providers such as stapp.in are more local and recent.
Potential number of users = estimation based on the number of downloads of the related app on the Google Play Store
Figure 2 – Car sharing solutions providers in Belgium, with their fleet size and creation date
Moreover, it is also worthwhile to note that leasing companies develop offers for companies to promote car sharing among employees. In Belgium for example, it is the goal of the Car2Use package of Athlon, the LeasePlan Autodelen van LeasePlan, AlphaCity of Alphabet, or the Arval Car Sharing from BNP Paribas Group. Thus, as the offer is growing on several fronts, the supply side should not be a roadblock for employers in terms of adopting car sharing solutions.
Authorities tackle car sharing obstacles
From this analysis and given the founding years of many of the car sharing providers mentioned above, the offer of car sharing services has clearly been on the rise in Belgium, and in Europe in general, during the last 3 years. However, the market does not seem to be fully grown yet: service providers are still very local and fragmented, meaning that it is not convenient for any company (consultancy, large firms…). Moreover, some other barriers to car sharing can be seen, as it happened during a workshop on car sharing services within different companies that Greenfish attended. From there, both technical and behavioural obstacles have arisen.
First, employers are reluctant to propose car sharing because of technical issues: the company has to find a system for passing on the keys, for making sure the car remains clean, etc. These administrative issues are recurrent problems identified by fleet managers regarding car sharing, which is not yet compensated by the market.
Second, fleet managers often encounter behavioural barriers: employees are not ready to abandon their comfortable company car and escape from their habits of consumption. Employers have a difficult time leaving the company car behind as well: it attracts talent and, as seen, still entails fiscal benefits. Therefore, fleet managers are not always satisfied with the ideals advocated by alternative and green mobility providers.
Given these obstacles, the Belgian government is trying to introduce changes regarding the tight bond employees have with their company cars. The “cash for car” scheme was accepted on the 15th of March 2018 and aims at encouraging employees to choose their mobility solution for a given amount of money rather than imposing a car . This amount is not subject to taxes for the employee, which should convince him that the alternative has an equal value compared to the company car. As the system was perceived as unfair for employees not having a car, the Belgian authorities also agreed on the mobility budget framing, an envelope that allows employees to decide on their mobility mix  . Federal solutions are accompanied by local and/or private initiatives as well. For instance, the Green Deal in Flanders assembles companies that are willing to have a more sustainable mobility scheme.
Greenfish’s sustainable take on commuting
Despite the observed obstacles of car sharing, Belgians are finally catching onto the concept as a viable and reliable means of transportation. The car sharing landscape in Belgium has already come leaps and bounds forward in a short amount of time, with both authorities and private workforces taking the necessary steps towards more sustainable commuting.
This positive societal outlook helps Greenfish to strategically position itself on this popular topic. Here at Greenfish, we are dedicated to making an impact in this sector and have recently developed an offer for companies willing and/or looking to reduce their environmental impact on transportation costs. Thanks to partners such as Kowo, our team has been able to evaluate and implement the optimal green transportation strategy for companies’ employees. Keeping in mind the best interests of all parties at stake, we take into consideration the context, the specific needs, and the financial constraints of the companies.
Staying true to our principals, we have applied this same approach in-house as well. We have developed a tool for assessing the CO2 emissions of our fleet and we monitor their environmental impact regularly and systematically. The benefits of each package in the new mobility plan offered to Greenfish consultants can also be assessed. This initiative allows for continuous improvement and provides a clear view of the commuting environment within our own company. In addition, Greenfish is also taking part in collective initiatives for moving towards more sustainable commuting in Belgium. The ongoing car sharing services workshop is both useful and important as it sheds light on reasons why companies refrain from car sharing and helps us find solutions to make improvements in this sector. If you think your company would like to hop on this movement, contact us directly!
Delphine Struyf – Consultant, Green Solutions at Greenfish
Quentin Lancrenon – Project Analyst, Green Solutions at Greenfish
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