Haupcar pioneers car-sharing service
Firm provides an alternative to traditional vehicle usage. By Piyachart Maikaew
Bangkok's notorious traffic, disconnected transport modes and rapid urbanisation have triggered the establishment of various smartphone-based taxi service providers in recent years.
Among them is Haupcar Co, a startup that provides the first mobile app for short-term car rental in Thailand, set up by two young brothers who graduated from the US and Britain.
"Haupcar is an advanced self-service car rental, also known as car sharing, via smartphone, that allows anyone to drive or share cars at any time," said Tanawat Vichaiwatanapanich, 30.
"Customers just choose and pick up the car they want at the nearest parking point and unlock the cars with their smartphone or Haupcar card, with gas and insurance included. You just pay by the hour and actual kilometres you drive."
Founded in April last year with registered capital of 1 million baht by Mr Tanawat and his younger brother Krit, 28, Haupcar's car-sharing service was launched in August 2016 via smartphones run both on iOS and Android systems.
According to Mr Tanawat, Haupcar's business model is similar to Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing and car club service. It is an alternative to traditional car rental and car ownership.
Haupcar charges 49-55 baht per 30 minutes and about 5.50 baht per kilometre after that. It charges 1,300-1,500 baht a day and 5.50 baht per km for 100km and over.
Interested customers can download the Haupcar app free of charge.
Haupcar has several locations -- Thammasat University's Rangsit campus, Kasetsart University, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and five downtown spots near Bangkok's mass transit lines -- Ari, Asok, Silom, Sathon and Krung Thonburi.
Haupcar has now a fleet of 10 wholly-owned vehicles for rental, mainly subcompact, compact and sedan models. Its location at KMUTT provides BMW's plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) thanks to the university's ambitious research and development plan for car sharing and electric vehicles (EVs).
The company has signed up 320 members, 80 of which are active Haupcar users.
According to Mr Tanawat, Haupcar plans this year to expand its fleet to 50 cars, covering 25 locations in Bangkok and Greater Bangkok.
Haupcar is also set to invest in buying new cars and aims to partner with car-leasing companies to provide cars for the fleet, but did not disclose further details.
The firm also aims to increase its members to 2,000-3,000 this year. University students and those aged between 20 and 40 are Haupcar's target users who prefer to drive cars temporarily for short distances.
"It is the beginning period for Haupcar and we prefer expanding step by step because the trend of car sharing is very new to Thais," he added.
"Nonetheless, we strongly believe Thai car users' behaviour will change to car-sharing services from car ownership, especially in metropolitan areas where the traffic is heavily congested."
Mr Tanawat cited Zipcar's success story, which has secured 1 million members across 500 cities and nine countries as of September 2016. Zipcar offers nearly 10,000 vehicles throughout the US, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
Mr Tanawat expects Haupcar to follow the same road to success as Zipcar, becoming available not only in Bangkok and surrounding provinces but also major provinces such as Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuket and Chon Buri over the next five years.
He predicted car sharing would be the answer to reducing the car populations in metropolitan areas, citing research by the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) that found car sharing combined with alternative transport modes offers many people more intelligent and resource-efficient transport than car ownership.
With car sharing, transport can be organised more rationally and be more energy-efficient. Car sharing is market-based, without restricting individual mobility. Additionally, car sharing helps to reclaim street space in city centres for social and ecological functions by reducing parking demand -- thus making cities more attractive.
According to the IEE study, one shared car could replace up to eight private cars.
"There are 5 million cars in Bangkok now, if only 10% of motorists turn to use the car-sharing service, we expect to withdraw roughly 4 million cars from our roads," Mr Tanawat said.
"The country can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector."
Mr Tanawat and his younger brother are also studying the feasibility of bringing PHEVs and battery electric vehicles into the fleet at Haupcar's parking locations by 2018, amid the government's policy to support EV production and growing environmental concerns.