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The electric car sharing in Milan is “Made in China”

by Andrea Malan

Milan is increasingly becoming the promise land for car sharing, which has attracted Italian and German and now Chinese companies. In fact, the Share’ngo project, which has put 100 electric microcars on the streets of Milan for the past several weeks, is Made in China.

The car being used is the D1 model produced by Shangdong Xindayang Electric Vehicle, a 50-50 joint venture involving Geely, one of the China’s biggest automobile manufacturers, and Xindayang. Shangdong Xindayang Electric Vehicle itself is the majority share holder (with 81.8%) of Cs Group Srl, the parent company (through Cs Milano srl) that manages the car sharing in Milan. Ultimately, the strategy is not so different from that of Daimler, which uses its own Smart cars for the car sharing service Car2Go.

The minority shareholders of Cs Group, not including another Chinese company (with 9%), are two Italian companies: Ettore Chimenti and Alfredo Bacci - with 4.5% each. The sole administrator is Emiliano Niccolai.

Shangdong Xindayang Electric’s D1 cars were sold in Italy to the public by Greengo srl starting at €13,000, batteries included, with the name “Icaro.” In 2014, Greengo suffered a loss greater than its net assets and it was put into liquidation. In China, things are better: last year, Xindayang sold approximately 7,400 vehicles because the market for this kind of car is rapidly developing, and the company was able to further take advantage of the incentives granted by Beijing for the diffusion of electric vehicles, “up to 70% of the price” explains Niccolai.

CEO Bao Wenguang has set a selling target of 20,000 for 2015, betting on China’s adoption of Italy’s car sharing model. The D1s weigh 580 kilograms including the battery (around 200 less than a Smart), with a top speed of 80 km/h and a 120 kilometer range. Considering the fact that they’re not “real” cars, they are subject to different safety regulations from those that apply to automobiles, for example, they are not equipped with airbags.

Xindayang has relied on the collaboration of a group of Italian technicians, which according to the Greengo website “designed the electric vehicle.” “The collaboration,” explains Niccolai, “started in 2007 upon Bacci’s initiative, and to this day we have six people working in China.” With regards to the Italian technical content, Niccolai says that, “there are no specific patents or licenses, we assisted Xindayang.”

Talking of the Share’ngo service, its rates are aligned, looking at industry maximums, with those of the cars offered by car sharing competitors: €0.28 per minute, compared to Car2Go’s €0.29, Twist’s €0.27, and Enjoy’s €0.25. Share’ngo, however, offers a series of discounts to “moms, commuters, out of town students, and for those living far away from the metro and the rail stations.”

A local user whom does not own a car and lives far from the metro, for example, pays a rate of €o.23 per minute. It is too early to evaluate the performance of the Chinese microcars in a competitive context like Milan, which is starting to get crowded. “Cs Group’s goal,” Niccolai says, “is to extend the car sharing experience to other Italian cities (Florence, Pisa, and Modena) and to also use the D1 as courtesy cars for hotels or rentals.