Berlin In the autumn of last year, Clevershuttle was looking for a retreat: The ridesharing service announced that it would withdraw its vehicles from Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart and discontinue the driver service. The reason given was ruinous competition and problems with the local authorities. A lack of money was suspected in the mobility industry.
This Thursday Clevershuttle officially starts in Düsseldorf and Cologne. More cities are to follow soon. And with Mitsui, the business model may soon be exported to Japan.
However, the plans are currently being held back by the corona crisis. Pooling is discontinued, cash payments are temporarily abolished. Clevershuttle now drives like a rental car service for individual customers, the advantages of sharing with multiple passengers are no longer valid. That of course costs profitability.
But Clevershuttle hopes to return to normal at some point. Corona does not question the business model, it says.
In Düsseldorf, a public start with 100 vehicles was actually planned for Thursday. Covid-19 stopped the project. Now the sharing service simply goes into regular operation, this time in cooperation with the municipal utility company.
The Clevershuttle driver service can be booked using the app. It is a combination of rental car and shared taxi. When entering the start and finish, the battery or, in some cities, hydrogen-powered vehicles pick up their passengers at the next corner or at home. Travelers with a similar route share a vehicle.
Optimal conditions in Leipzig
The Deutsche Bahn wants to make it easier for travelers to make connecting journeys to and from the train station, which is why it started three years ago with the start-up Clevershuttle.
The sharing service finds optimal conditions in Leipzig. The depot is located directly at the main train station in the middle of the city. 70 vehicles are in use, 238 full-time or part-time drivers, almost the entire city area is covered. The routes are easy to optimize, the pooling rate is 65 percent, and 4,200 guests were carried on the peak day in mid-December, the company says.
Bruno Ginnuth, founder and managing director of Clevershuttle, reports that Leipzig has been the first location to be operationally profitable since November. This calculation takes into account vehicle costs, loading yard, personnel and disposition.
Clevershuttle has founded a separate GmbH for each location. Leipzig “we see as a key moment in order to further expand our position as the leading ride pooling provider in Germany,” Ginnuth told Handelsblatt.
Apparently, customers have also changed. In the beginning, it was primarily “young, digital-savvy customers”. Today the audience is “mixed”. Ridepooling, says Ginnuth, “has arrived in the middle of society”.
Difficult starting point in Cologne
In Cologne, where Clevershuttle also wants to start soon, the situation is somewhat more difficult. The permit has been granted, but it is almost impossible to find parking and charging facilities near the main train station. The Leipzig model cannot be easily transferred to other locations and without compromises.
Clevershuttle drivers must return to the operating location after each tour. Ridepooling is treated like a rental car service under the Passenger Transport Act. The American driver service failed because of the strict rules of this law About.
In the meantime, this also appears in Germany as a rental car provider. Ridesharing services such as Clevershuttle operate with local exemptions based on a so-called experimental clause.
The Federal Government is currently revising the Passenger Transport Act. However, no results are expected before the end of the year. On the one hand, the rules should be geared towards the new digital mobility offers such as sharing, on the other hand, they should not destroy the basis of the classic taxi business.
The Japanese conglomerate Mitsui joined Clevershuttle in October with fresh money. The amount of the investments was not mentioned. Since then, the Japanese have held twelve percent of the shares, as have the three founders of Clevershuttle.
In addition to Ginnuth, these are Jan Hofmann and Slava Tschurilin. Deutsche Bahn has been the majority shareholder of the start-up founded in 2014 with 76 percent.
More: Medium-sized company Hans-Jürgen Mundinger makes high-speed trains possible.