Hitching a sustainable ride

Following a successful pilot project in Eindhoven last year, the Amber Car Sharing Fleet has now been deployed in Amsterdam. ABN AMRO Commercial Banking relationship managers have recently started to call on their clients in a shared electric car from their base in the city's Zuidas district. A special app called Amber lets users book the car, indicating what time they want to leave, where they're going and at which hub they want to pick up the car. Amber will then make sure the BMW i3 is available at the desired time and location.

Fred Bos, Director of Commercial Banking Clients, says Amber is the perfect complement to the bank's sustainability ambitions. "Every single company needs to do its bit to reduce carbon emissions," he says, "and there's much to be gained in the areas of real estate and mobility. Thanks to Amber's fleet of cars, all our visits to corporate clients are now CO2-neutral. That's why we're excited about gradually rolling out this concept nationally at the bank. After all, it's just one more way we're making a significant contribution to meeting the climate goals we've set. We're also hoping to inspire our business clients. This particular concept will really take off once it's attracted a large user group and covers the whole country."

The time is right for car sharing

For the younger generation, being able to get around is more important than owning a car. Fred says, "That's certainly a clear trend. At the same time, though, this idea is starting to rub off on older generations, too. And that makes sense. Our roads are overcrowded. It's becoming harder and harder to find parking, and it's expensive - especially in urban areas. In terms of accessibility, logistics are also an increasingly difficult challenge for businesses. One positive in all of this, of course, is that people are increasingly aware of the need to get from A to B using sustainable transport. All things considered, car sharing is an obvious answer to business and private transport needs. Using Amber solves a lot of these problems, too. But it's a step-by-step process. Their fleet isn't big enough yet to offer full, nationwide coverage here in the Netherlands."

The Amber Car Sharing Fleet is an initiative of ABN AMRO's Econic hub. Fred explains: "Last June, the bank set up its Econic innovation centre, a point of convergence for fintechs and ABN AMRO. This innovative hotspot caters for initiatives focusing on more than just banking, which is how we came into contact with Amber in the first place and ended up developing a business case together. We initially carried out a pilot project in Eindhoven. Although we did run into a few minor teething problems, we learned a lot. For example, Amber's licence to operate is inherently linked to the service being non-optional. We also recognised that it's important for Amber to structure its services more effectively in order to guarantee transport and availability."

More mobility

Fred continues, "Some of the bank's employees living far from their place of work don't have good transport links. Let's say you're going to visit a client, but first have to travel for over an hour just to pick up the car. Obviously, that's not a workable solution. Now that Amber is expanding its fleet throughout the country and its customer base is growing, there are plans to open more hubs. Plus there are so many conceivable smart solutions to make the service easier to use. For instance, if you work in Amsterdam, live in Hoorn and have a meeting in Alkmaar early the next morning, you should be able to pick up your car in Amsterdam the evening before and then travel directly from home the next morning to visit your client. Or the other way around, of course, if you're visiting the client at the end of the day. The only requirement would be that you'd have to return the car before 8.30 the next morning so that others can use it."

Car sharing has a bright future

It's not a question of whether, but of how long, it will take for car sharing to be a success. "I think things could really take off now," says Fred. "We're well on our way to rolling out electric car sharing with all our relationship managers. But I'm thinking of the bank's other business units, too. We're pursuing an active mobility policy that features a mix of deterrents and incentives. For example, we've drastically reduced the number of parking permits around our head office. But we include the electric bike option (as long as sufficient charging points are available) and, for those with a long commute, the mixed parking and public transport option (where employees park at the city's perimeter and then take public transport in to the office, a scheme known as 'P+R' in Dutch) on employees' public transport cards. Finally, we review annually the rules which determine an employee's eligibility for a company car. Those rules involve not only the minimum number of business kilometres driven per year, but also the environmental criteria we set for the lease cars our employees drive."

Nick Duinmaijer - Commercial Banking Relationship Manager Banking Clients

“For me, the advantages of flexible mobility are obvious. First of all, it’s good for the environment. But it also allows us to show our clients and society at large that we’re embracing sustainability. The Amber cars are a sweet ride, too. Booking a car is easy. They send you a push message with the car’s registration number, and you unlock the car with the app. That said, I do think there are a few areas for improvement. For example, what do you do if a meeting ends up taking longer than expected? Or if you’re on your way and suddenly see that the car doesn’t have enough power to get you to your next appointment? Then again, most of these niggles will be non-issues once they’ve built a network with enough hubs.” 

Altan Ilhan - Commercial Banking Relationship Manager Banking Clients

“My experience with Amber? I have to say it’s a comfortable, enjoyable way to get around by car. It makes you feel good about yourself, too. You can actually sense that the car generates no direct emissions. It’s a new and innovative concept. They say that sharing is the new buying, and Amber really taps into that trend. I think it’s important that the bank should be fully committed to sustainability. I use it in my discussions with clients, citing the Amber concept as one example. As for disadvantages, I personally don’t see any. Some of my colleagues aren’t that enthusiastic, though. Part of that, I think, may be generational. For younger people, sharing is the norm, while others still may need more time to get used to the concept.”