Mobility Experiment: Car Swap, Dearborn

Ford Launches Car Swap Experiment in Dearbourn, Michigan. Here’s How it Works

The ultimate goal to evolving transport is using the right vehicle for the right job, be that using an all-electric car for the weekly shop, a bicycle for the work commute or public transport for the cross-country trip.

Because of this we are fascinated to hear about car share and rental schemes around the world. But Ford, at their offices in Dearborn, Michigan, USA has gone a step further by creating a car swapping service.


Currently limited to managers in that office who take part in the company vehicle lease scheme, the system allows drivers to search an online directory of other signed-up users and request a swap.

For example, someone driving a Ford Focus EV may need a F-150 pickup for a weekend to allow them to pick up some large piece of furniture. All they need to do is log on to their new app, find a F-150 driver and send them a request.

Or maybe a Ford Fusion Hybrid driver wants to experience going all-electric for a day.

A swap is arranged at given location and both drivers appear and swap cars. Simple really.

Fuel usage and miles driven by the drivers is logged through a dongle attached to the car’s onboard diagnostic port providing data to Ford, and one presumes, ensuring that one driver doesn’t use all of the other’s fuel.

It really is just one step on from car rentals schemes which are becoming increasingly popular across the globe. Possibly the most famous alternative fuel scheme in the world is the Bollore Group Autolib electric car sharing programme in Paris. Having being set up in December 2011 it has now expanded into other French cities, Indianapolis, USA and London, UK. But it is taking a cautious approach and doing it slowly.

Other car rental schemes haven’t been without their problems when it comes to electric cars too. Europcar, the international car rental company, removed electric cars from its lineup in the UK after having only just adding them stating that ‘to date the interest in the hire of electric vehicles has been limited’.

It’s the classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem. People won’t rent electric cars if they aren’t there but companies won’t stock them until there is demand. Ford’s car swapping scheme could shortcut this problem by linking car owners with other car owners, no need for a company at all.

Electric cars often come under fire from skeptics with the stock phrase, ‘What if I had to drive to Scotland?’ or ‘But I travel once a year to see my sick aunty who lives 200 miles away.’ Until now car rental or owning a second car were the only answers to these questions. Maybe car swapping will add another – possibly more compelling – solution.

Does avoiding an organising company remove the cost:benefit calculations that lead to the chicken and egg problem? Will new car buyers feel more confident to go all-electric or part-electric if there is a car swapping scheme in place if they need it?

These questions, and others, could be answered by the data from Ford’s study.

Would you be interested in a car swapping scheme in your area? What would hold you back from taking part? Would you prefer this over car rental? Let us know in the comments below.


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  • D. Harrower

    It’ll be interesting to see how they account for any damage/accidents.nnWould each party sign a waiver (a la car rentals)?nnOr would it just function on the honor system?

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