How Greenwheels is helping to make towns more livable with an innovative car sharing platform

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from Lisa de Vreede, Product Manager B2C at Greenwheels, a Dutch car sharing service on a mission to make cities more livable by reducing pollution and freeing up green spaces for amenities such as parks and playgrounds.

I was raised by ‘hippie’ parents, in a Rotterdam commune where everyone shared pretty much everything: vegetables, living space, appliances and, yes, cars. As a kid, the idea of non-ownership seemed so simple and natural, that I never imagined the “sharing economy” would become such a major theme of the digital revolution.  

My childhood experiences drew me to Greenwheels, where I saw an opportunity to make cities more livable through car sharing. At Greenwheels, we see ourselves as pioneers of the global car sharing boom, having launched 25 years ago on a mission to bring green spaces back to Dutch cities. You might think of the Netherlands as the land of bicycles, but locals increasingly see it as a land of bad air and traffic jams.

All of our cars are fuel-efficient, and we’re phasing in electric vehicles across our entire fleet. This goes hand-in-hand with our goal to build the future of green mobility, which is what we had in mind when we launched our new app powered by Google Maps Platform.

Greenwheels in-line image 1

New mobility solutions that make a measurable environmental difference

In 2015, we expanded our mission to improve city life with a revamped app based on Google Maps Platform. The app, powered by products such as the Maps Javascript API and the Maps Street View Service, brought us green benefits beyond our expectations. 

Since working with Google Cloud Premier Partner Localyse to launch this app, a study has shown that each new addition to the Greenwheels fleet takes 11 cars off the roads. After joining Greenwheels, people drive an average of 2,000 kilometers less per year, saving 16 tons of annual CO2 emissions for all customers. With these measurable results, we’re happy to see that we’re truly making a difference for the environment.

Much of our success springs from spending a quarter of a century in the business. It’s what my Greenwheels colleague Allard Hansma calls “a cocktail of experience.” We have an entire department devoted to finding ideal locations for positioning cars, because we’ve learned that there’s an art to these seemingly random choices. You should avoid positioning a car by a big tree, for example, unless you want it to be soiled by birds. Google Maps Platform products such as the Maps Javascript API and the Maps Street View Service act as our eyes on the street to optimize placement strategy.

Google Maps Platform products are integral to every part of our customer journey, from choosing a car, to obtaining step-by-step directions to the vehicle, and navigation to the final destination. Whenever customers want to rent a vehicle, they see a cluster of pins where Greenwheels cars are stationed. The customer simply picks the most convenient one for that trip, benefitting from other visible factors such as subway stations that help them plan their journey. Since launching the app we’ve more than doubled our customer base, thanks largely to a 60% surge in app bookings. Today nearly 80% of our app users use the Google Maps Platform-powered map to book and find their car. And we’re seeing most of our bookings made online rather than by phone. It translates into big cost and labor savings for us, enabling our team to focus on their core task of developing green innovation.

Greenwheels in-line image 2

Connecting families and spreading joy with green mobility solutions

The green ethos is embedded in our name and in our DNA, but there’s more to what we do than helping to clean the air and clear space for parks and playgrounds. Ultimately, our goal is to help people enjoy the important things in life, such as connecting with family and making kids happy.

We’re proud to bring mobility to people who can’t afford a car, so they can visit loved ones in the countryside whenever they wish. One of the use cases we like most: more and more parents are using Greenwheels to take kids to soccer practice on rainy days when it’s too wet to cycle to the pitch.

We also feel a keen responsibility to help communities during COVID-19. When we reduced our prices for health workers, hundreds of medical staff used our service in thousands of journeys to their essential jobs. Our cars helped doctors and nurses get to night shifts when public transport ran at minimum capacity, with a train every two hours instead of 10 minutes. Emergency workers used our cars to make themselves ready to help, wherever and whenever they were needed.

Strategic partnerships to build a greener future

Today, we’re accelerating our journey in green mobility with new innovations. And Google Maps Platform will be with us every step of the way. One key project is peer-to-peer solutions, where individuals can offer their own car under the Greenwheels brand. We’re also working with property developers to create multimodal transportation hubs, enabling networks of cars, bicycles, and scooters to optimize journeys. 

Our journey to green success has been fueled by our partnerships with the Google Maps Platform team and Localyse. Our fun brainstorming sessions enable us to keep discovering unexpected ways to deploy Google Maps Platform products, and keep evolving our solution.

It’s all about being open to new ways of thinking creatively about APIs and how they can help us achieve our goals. In our regular strategy meetings with Localyse, we share our challenges and opportunities, and together, discover the way forward. It’s a meeting of the minds to invent new mobility solutions, and we see a future of possibilities ahead.


For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

Read More