Sunday, 15 January 2012

Danish life: swapping Streetcar for Moveabout

As I have mentioned before, we are a biking family. We cycle everywhere and we don't own a car. This was not a conscious decision on our part when we moved to Copenhagen; we have never owned a car. Back in London, we cycled to work and I used to take my son on the back of my bike, when the weather permitted.

In the last year of our time in London we joined a car club. There were a couple of these new car sharing schemes beginning in the city and we were fortunate enough to live fairly centrally and by chance there were car club cars parked very close to us. When I went on maternity leave as my daughter was born, the car club became a great way for us to get around as we had no way of transporting a new born in or on a bike.

We were members of 'Streetcar', a scheme whereby one pays an annual fee and then you can book a car online and pay by the hour/day/weekend, depending on your needs. The hourly rates included insurance, congestion charges and petrol costs. In our neighbourhood there were a couple of BMWs and VW Golfs at our disposal and when we were organised we would book them for jaunts to friends who lived off the tube map, trips to IKEA and, when the move to Copenhagen loomed on the horizon, they were incredibly useful for transporting bags of donations to charity shops.

Since we've arrived in Denmark we have been on the look out for a car club to join. There are a couple available and they operate on the same principle as the ones in the UK - an annual fee and then hourly charges for car use. Unfortunately, the car club cars were not located close enough to our flat to make joining them convenient. When you have small children and you need to factor in the time it takes to cart car seats around, its easier just to use the cargo bike!!

That was until about a month ago when the car club called Moveabout upgraded its fleet. Around the corner from us are two charging points for electric cars owned by Moveabout and available to members. These cars were two seaters, again not so useful when we are a family of four. Recently, Citroen C-zero cars (four seaters) have been added and, yippee, our family is back in the car share business again.

We joined Moveabout this week and it is slightly different from other clubs in that there is no annual membership fee but instead a minimum charge per month. Insurance and other runnings costs are all included within the hourly rates, which are between 49 DKK and 99 DKK per hour. We booked a car for today and this morning I set off with car seats for our first electric car outing.

Of course, the first limitation of using a car club car rather than your own vehicle is the time limit and I found that, as in London, I was always watching the clock. Although I had learned from my earlier experience that on the first outing its best to be conservative in your travel plans and generous in the time slot booked. It takes time to get to know a new car and to fit car seats etc.

Booking an electric car comes with a further limitation - the distance you can travel before needing to recharge. When booking online I was curious to see that we were asked how far we planned to drive and then when I booked the car, I received an email from Moveabout telling us about the cars limitations - we could only go 60 km on a full charge. Fortunately, we were only planning a local trip. It was still slightly disconcerting seeing the gauge on the dashboard start to drop as we drove. Its not like running on low fuel in a petrol car - there are no electric charging points at gas stations!

Leaving aside the fact that it took me ages to figure out that the engine was on even though I couldn't hear it (there's no comforting sound of petrol ignition) and getting my head around the Danish instructions for starting and stopping the car and disabling the immobiliser, which had kicked in when we were trying to fit the car seats, it wasn't a bad first foray.

One of the things that I think will take a long time to get used to, however, is driving around in a vehicle that has IKEA and World Wildlife Fund markings on it. This attracted a lot of attention and made for very self conscious driving. Even when we parked the car in Klampenborg and went for a walk on the beach, I noticed people standing around it and having a closer look.


  1. What a great idea! Do you also get priority parking in certain areas too? Emma :)

  2. Emma, I haven't checked it out officially but yes, I understand there are parking privileges for electric cars!!

  3. delighted to have drifted to this beautiful blog