Thursday, July 9, 2009

Car Sharing in Japan

Not always easy to follow carshare developments in Japan, but since we started the World Carshare Consortium in 1997 we have made heroic yearly efforts to do just that. Language is part of the barrier, but there are also cultural differences which require careful interpretation. In the event, here is our 2009 overview of the status of carsharing in Japan pieced together from reports coming in from friends there and elsewhere. We welcome your additional information, remarks and eventual questions.

1. January 2009 Overview:

Source: Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation

According to a survey of the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation in January 2009, there are now 20 carsharing organizations in Japan and a total of 563 vehicles are being shared by 6396 registered members at 357 car stations.

The figure of registered members has doubled since January 2008.

You can access the web site of each carsharing organizations (in Japanese) from the Foundation's web site at

Best Wishes,
Shimpei Ichimaru
Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation
Tokyo, Japan

2. End-2008 Overview:

Source: JFS Newsletter No. 76 (December 2008) -

Shifting from Car Ownership to Services and Functions

In order to create a low-carbon society, it is important to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport. As a transportation mode that emits relatively less CO2, car-sharing schemes have been growing in the North America, Europe and Japan. Car sharing is a new idea of using just the services or functions of a car instead of owning one. It is said that the world's first attempt at car sharing started in 1987 in Switzerland.

How has car sharing spread in Japan so far?

According to a survey by the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation (known as the Eco-Mo Foundation), there were 19 car-sharing organizations in Japan as of August 2008, and a total of 522 cars were being shared by 3,875 registered members at 323 car stations. The numbers of cars and car stations more than doubled and the number of members increased by half compared with a survey in January 2007, only a year and a half earlier.

There are a number of reasons that car-sharing systems are growing in Japan. One is the recent soaring prices of gasoline and commodities.

Another is the growing general awareness of environmental issues and spread of eco-friendly lifestyles. Also, many young people are clearly less interested in owning cars than before. One could say that Japanese society is becoming more accepting of green lifestyles, sometimes described by a new business concept called "green servicing," which refers to the use of the services or functions of products rather than the ownership of products themselves.

Green Servicing Businesses:

The national government has recently begun to encourage car sharing as a means of public transport. It is setting the stage for spreading the idea of car sharing nationwide by supporting local governments that have promoted car sharing, and by modifying regulations.

In July 2008, Japan drew up an Action Plan for Achieving a Low-carbon Society to attain a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent from the current levels. The government's strategy is clearly described in this action plan. For example, during fiscal 2008 (i.e., by April 2009) a study group to promote car sharing is to be launched, and by examining ways to address obstacles and increase convenience, it is expected to publicize both the environmental and economic benefits of car sharing.

The government is also promoting Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) by measures such as encouraging people to shift to eco-friendly transportation.

Action Plan for Achieving a Low-Carbon Society

Advantages of Car Sharing

How can a car-sharing system reduce environmental impacts? In Japan, the CO2 emissions from transport sector amounted to 254 million tons in 2006, accounting for about 20 percent of total emissions, and half of the emissions from the transport sector were from family cars. A survey about car sharing by the Eco-Mo Foundation in 2005 showed that when car-sharing systems were introduced in urban areas, members' travel distances and number of cars owned dropped by 79 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

The number of car use by car-sharers in the survey dropped dramatically, while the number that used public transportation, cycled or walked increased. By travelling less, the car-sharers saved 450,000 yen (about U.S.$ 4,290) in costs per year and reduced their CO2 emissions from car use by about 30 percent (or 1.89 tons of CO2 equivalent annually).

The study thus showed that a car-sharing system can reduce the wasteful use of cars and bring about positive effects, such as (1) easing traffic congestion in urban areas, (2) supporting the use of public transportation systems, (3) contributing to urban environmental measures, (4) easing pressure on limited parking space in cities, and (5) helping reduce global warming by lowering CO2 emissions.

Short history of Car Sharing in Japan

In the United States and Europe, the idea of car sharing initially developed with the aim of reducing the number of cars owned. In contrast, when car sharing began in 1999 in Japan, it started mainly as a means of demonstrating and testing new technologies, such as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and electric cars.

In 2002, some companies, including ORIX Co., ORIX Rental Car (current ORIX Auto Co.), NEC Soft Ltd., and NEC Co., established a joint venture called CEV Sharing Co. (CEV) to test whether or not the car-sharing business model used overseas could be successfully applied in Japan.

In 2007, CEV was integrated into ORIX Auto Co, which created a new car-sharing division within its rental car department. The company then launched a service with "car sharing" for short uses and "car rentals" for longer use, ranging from several hours to several days.

3. Carsharing and Station Cars in Asia: An Overview of Japan and Singapore

And to complete the picture (for now), have a look at this comprehensive 2005 study by Matthew Barth, Susan A. Shaheen, Tuenjai Fukuda, and Atsushi Fukuda, which you can access at

In recent years there has been significant worldwide activity in shared-use vehicle systems (i.e., carsharing and station cars). Much of this activity is taking place in Europe and North America; however, there has also been significant activity in Asia, primarily in Japan and Singapore. This paper examines the latest shared-use vehicle system activities in both of these countries, beginning with an historical review followed by an evaluation of their current systems. Overall there are several well-established systems in both Japan (approximately 18 systems, 150 vehicles, 3000 members) and Singapore (approximately 4 systems, 300 vehicles, and 8000 members). In contrast to most European and North American cities, both Japan and Singapore already have a wide range of viable public transportation modes. Interestingly, the primary carsharing focus in Japan is on business use and on neighborhood residential in Singapore. This is likely due to limited vehicle licensing and high car ownership costs in Singapore. Further, systems in Japan and Singapore have a high degree of advanced technology in their systems, making the systems both easy to use and manage. The member-vehicle ratios in Asia appear to be approximately the same as Europe and Canada and less than the U.S. It is expected that Asian shared-use vehicle systems will continue to have steady growth in terms of number of organizations, vehicles, and users.

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