DENSO’s MDrive car share study reveals promise for electric car sharing

Electric vehicle car sharing could be the future of transportation for some: today, DENSO International America, Inc., a global automotive supplier, announced the results of MDrive, the first study to focus on car sharing for people who live, work or frequent one location. In partnership with the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Detroit-based NextEnergy, an energy and technology accelerator, the study identified the potential impact electric vehicle car sharing could have on the future of mobility, personal transportation, and vehicle design.

The study involved 30 University of Michigan-Dearborn students living at The Union at Dearborn, who shared three Ford Focus Electric vehicles for a six-month period. The students used a custom app to reserve, access, share, and drive the vehicles anywhere within the continental United States, in exchange for their detailed feedback on the experience. Onboard diagnostics equipment gathered real-time data, while dashboard cameras captured video of the user experience. Students also provided feedback and suggestions for technologies most needed in future car share vehicles via short surveys and online forums. DENSO researchers then identified common benefits and challenges experienced by users to inform design of future car sharing technologies.

“Our study reinforced the idea that Electric Vehicle Car Sharing is an increasingly viable personal transportation alternative, and groups who share common interests stand to benefit the most,” said Michael Bima, a lead engineer in the North American Research and Engineering Center at DENSO International America. “For car sharing to reach its full potential, manufacturers and car share service providers need to address the efficiency and convenience for the end user– drivers should be able to quickly and easily access the vehicle, adjust their settings, and be on their way. Vehicle range and charging become areas of focus when you add electric vehicles, as well.”

DENSO will present the study results at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ World Congress Experience 17. In addition to showcasing one of the study’s cars in DENSO’s booth (#3002), participants including Matt Felice – a new DENSO employee who drove to his interview using the shared vehicle – will be on-hand to discuss the experience.

“Mobility continues to change and reshape the automotive industry,” said Pat Bassett, vice president of engineering and research at DENSO International America. “While there’s a lot of excitement about new technology in the space, we recognize the importance of getting it right in addition to getting it done quickly. To DENSO, that means hiring the best engineers, and sharing knowledge with other leaders in the space. MDrive is exactly the type of research we need to bring us into a new era of mobility in a safe, smart way.”