Alexandre Bol, OpenFleet and Koolicar: “Taking car-sharing to a new dimension”
Car-sharing platforms Koolicar and OpenFleet are the brainchild of Stéphane Savouré and his business partner Alexandre Bol. The concept is designed to be different from the others, and has attracted 250,000 private members via peer-to-peer solution Koolicar and many companies and public entities via OpenFleet. With the convergence of private and business use with regard to smart and alternative mobility, both platforms have value for corporates that seek to maximise employee mobility and optimise the utilisation of their vehicle fleet.
The founders started looking at the possibility of a simple to use, yet technological strong system for car-sharing between individual owners back in 2009. At the time, this was a totally new idea as Auto’Lib was not yet in existence. They were looking at a completely automated service in which ease of use was at the centre. There was no technology which was either technically or economically viable for such a service at the time, so they developed their own technology that would enable a low-cost service.
Capital was raised from various sources, including from insurance specialist MAIF and car manufacturer PSA in 2016. The system therefore forms part of PSA’s mobility system Free2Move.
Where Koolicar stands apart from other ‘private’ car-sharing schemes is in the fact that it manages the car totally, and the system collects all the information about the use of the car automatically. Client service is also available 24 hours, 7 days. The automated system makes it possible to rent a car for as little as one hour, without needing to meet the owner. The system checks all the parameters of the rental, and enables entry to the car, in which the key is to be found. The car has to be returned to within 300 metres of the starting point, although the owner can specify up to five return addresses. The Koolicar car-sharing platform is strictly ‘pay per use’, there is no subscription option.
“Our stats show that many rentals start early in the morning and finish late at night, so our method is a real advantage for the customer”, says Alexandre Bol. “Many people use this system as a ‘second car’ and to make sure that people get the right return on investment we stick to the ‘pay per use’ model, as introducing subscriptions would be contradictory to the flexibility and freedom element that goes with car sharing”. Privately owned vans are gradually integrated in the system too.
To meet customer demands Koolicar is very selective when it comes to cars and drivers. Cars have to be less than 11 years old and have fewer than 120,000 km on the clock to be part of the car sharing community. There is a check on the papers of the car, and the ownership. For drivers in France for example, they need to have at least 9 points remaining on their driving licences, and they have to declare that they have not had a serious accident in the last three years. They also have to have held a licence for at least five years. And, importantly, the moment a rental starts, the car is insured by the Koolicar insurer. This is included in the fee.
“We already operate everywhere in France where mobility is needed”, says Alexandre Bol. “There is a great deal of demand in the large cities because people have got rid of their own cars.” A typical user of Koolicar’s car-sharing service is in his or her 30’s. “But we have customers of all ages.” For Alexandre Bol, car-sharing is the right answer to both an economic and environmental necessity: “Studies confirm that a car-sharing car replaces 7 to 10 personal cars. And CO2 emissions are heavily reduced, partly because someone who has his own car will use it for a 2 km trip, whereas someone who needs to rent a car will think twice and use the mobility mode that suits him or her best”. Koolicar has shared this information with the French authorities and the Minister of Ecology. The restrictions on cars driving in the French capital Paris will not affect the operation because the cars chosen conform to regulations and are very well maintained.
OpenFleet, targeting B2B
Where Koolicar targets private customers, also companies and public institutions have interest for smart mobility solutions. “As their challenges regarding traffic and mobility are the same, the solution is similar, the technology is the same, and so we launched OpenFleet, dedicated to corporate car-sharing”, says Alexandre Bol, who underlines that regarding intelligent and alternative mobility use there is a convergence going on between private and business use of mobility solutions. “The reason we launched a different brand is because the target group is different and the needs throughout the complete process are not exactly the same.” But the system uses the same technology. “Many companies are confronted with a car fleet that is not well utilised and generates unnecessary costs. Car-sharing on a corporate level helps a company to utilise the vehicle fleet in an optimal way and to get a better hold on the vehicle fleet and its management.” The goal of OpenFleet is to enable fleets to be better used and to need fewer cars. The OpenFleet system enables weekend use too. Evolving legislation in France will make the rethinking of vehicle fleets important. Companies will have to establish mobility plans for the employees, including bikes, car-sharing, parking facilities and other mobility modes… and also the increased pressure on fines and fine management will lead to a mobility mindset in which car-sharing will have its place, believes Alexandre Bol.
To conclude, the mission of the start-up companies Koolicar and OpenFleet is to become a distinguished player in the mobility domain. Both car-sharing platforms can benefit to the mobility needs and the optimised utilisation of a company’s fleet.
Alexandre Bol believes that the car of tomorrow will already be fitted with a car-sharing box unit when it leaves the factory. So, it is not a question of whether car-sharing will take place, but how. Today Koolicar and OpenFleet are available in France, but as the technology knowledge is in-house, both systems can be easily duplicated and rolled out internationally. In Canada for example, the Open Fleet technology is already used by a disrupting new taxi service that uses fewer cars than drivers, thanks to the OpenFleet technology.