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Insights 7 Apr 2011

Video: Rent The Car Next Door – The Rise of Peer-to-Peer Social Innovation

By Kyra Maya Philips

There are approximately 50 million power drills in American homes. The average power drill is used for no more than 13 minutes in its entire lifetime. This doesn’t make a lot of sense when – as renowned designer Victor Papanek declared – it’s the hole you need, not the drill.

Aristotle once wrote: “On the whole, you find wealth much more in use than in ownership.” How wise that chap was. Turns out companies are now basing their entire business models solely on this very idea: access is now the privilege, while ownership is just a burden.

WhipCar, a new peer-to-peer car rental scheme, has ingeniously applied this “hole, not drill” principle to the act of driving. The premise is that you need the journey, not the car. The venture enables car owners to rent out their vehicles, which on average sit idle for twenty three hours a day. If WhipCar’s first few months are anything to go by, people across the UK are ready to embrace this particular example of collaborative consumption: over a thousand car owners have registered for the service already.

And why not? Your car is a slacker. It sits around doing nothing but costing you money, typically losing 60% of its value in the first 3 years of its life, and lightening your wallet annually to the tune of £3,000 or more in maintenance fees.

WhipCar is just one example of countless ventures that are threatening the status quo for many global companies, the income of whom depends fundamentally upon traditional models of ownership and obsolescence. What bigger reason does big business need to get serious about transforming for sustainability?

Cynics will tout that it may be long while before a model like this truly impacts the automotive business as we currently know it – just look at the continuing struggle of car-sharing services like ZipCar to scale up and reach mainstream consumers, let alone be profitable – but sustainability will require exactly this sort of innovation, and a whole bunch of it. The challenge is not just for ideas like this to prove their relevance to traditional business, but for the business world to prove its relevance to sustainability, which means business must increasingly marshal its resources and expertise to make new and more sustainable business models successful.

Now enjoy the video of WhipCar’s founder telling us how we can all ‘rent the car next door’.

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