How to select the right vehicle for your mobility service
The most important factors to consider when picking a vehicle for your microtransit, paratransit or ride sharing service, including our top vehicle recommendations in 2022.
Whether starting a mobility service, whether ride sharing, microtransit, or paratransit, choosing the right vehicle is crucial. Transit agencies and mobility companies need to ensure they’re providing both drivers and riders with a safe, smooth, positive experience.
To help you find the right option for your services, this post covers a few of the key elements to consider when assembling your fleet, as well as our recommended vehicles for 2022.
5 key considerations when buying a vehicle
In order to ensure services are as accessible as possible, operators should consider including vehicles that take various mobility needs into account, such as wheelchair-accessible vans or cars that can accommodate service animals. In addition to the ability to serve a larger variety of riders, acquiring accessible vehicles can offer ride sharing companies the potential to partner with local transit networks. For example, in 2019 the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) partnered with Lyft and Uber to launch a pilot program aimed at improving mobility for individuals with disabilities. Through the partnership, the MBTA provides Uber and Lyft with a $24/hour subsidy for every hour that the company makes wheel-chair accessible vehicles available to customers within designated areas.
When considering the accessibility of your fleet, remember to think beyond just the logistics and to keep in mind the rider experience. Simply adding a ramp to a van or doesn’t automatically equate with a positive experience fo a rider using a mobility aid. Consider additional rider aids such as assist bars or straps, as well as raised or swivel seats.
Finally, keep in mind that an accessible fleet doesn’t mean that each vehicle needs to be wheelchair accessible, as accessibility comes in many forms. For instance, in some cases a smaller sedan might be an easier option for a senior citizen to get in and out of. This is why having a mixed fleet can help ensure you’re able to meet all different types of needs.
2. Vehicle Occupancy
Another key consideration, and one of the most important, is how many seats the vehicle has. For ride hailing vehicles offering private or shared rides, a 5-seat sedan is typically sufficient.
However, if the vehicle is for a high throughput stop-based service or will need to accommodate group trips from locations such as schools, community centres, or nursing homes, you’ll likely want the ability to configure a seating capacity larger than a sedan.
Before expanding your fleet, think through what kind of ridership and accessibility needs you’re expecting to meet and decide on the ideal vehicle occupancy accordingly.
3. Ownership Costs
The benefits of leasing or owning a vehicle depend on the business model of the company, and you can read more about both options in our blog post about fleet management. If you’re planning to power your mobility service with owned vehicles, there are a number of associated costs to consider when buying a car. In addition to potential financing charges and interest rates, you should consider ongoing fuel, depreciation and maintenance/repair costs.
4. Fuel Efficiency
Fuel-efficient vehicles are able to get more mileage out of less gas than the average car. Fuel efficiency should be a key consideration for agencies and companies who plan on acquiring their own fleet because reduced gas consumption will result in less overhead spending on fuel. Of course, there are also significant environmental benefits as fuel-efficient or even electric vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
There are a number of ways that weather can affect vehicles. A scorching hot day may lead to a tire blowout. The denser winter air, on the other hand, can result in decreased fuel efficiency — in fact, a drop in temperature from 24°C to 7°C can increase fuel consumption in urban commutes by 12-28%!
One of the major considerations for drivers and companies located in climates with snowy or icy conditions should be a vehicle with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).
For vehicles operating in urban settings where cold weather may result in a variety of changing road surfaces, AWD tends to be best as it automatically engages four-wheel torque, allowing the driver to concentrate on safely navigating adverse conditions. Whereas drivers located in more rural areas with deeper snow or rugged terrain tend to benefit from 4WD vehicles; while they power all four vehicles, as with AWD, 4WD tend to have more robust systems that allow for more driver control in situations such as a snowdrift, icy hills, or extreme snow buildup.
However, both AWD and 4WD are useless if a vehicle isn’t outfitted with the right tires. All-season tires are typically sufficient unless the ride sharing company is located somewhere with extreme winters, in which case winter tires are optimal.
4 vehicles to consider for your mobility service fleet
Here are a few of vehicles that encapsulate the key features of a good ride sharing vehicle that drivers or ride sharing companies should consider for 2022.
At the end of the day, the best vehicle for your mobility service will depend on the type of service provided. Are you offering ride sharing, paratransit, or microtransit services? What is your average number of passengers per vehicle or rate of riders with special needs? What areas are you operating in? The key considerations above will help you narrow down your service priorities.
That said, our top recommendation in most cases is to assemble a mixed fleet that helps you nimbly respond to changing rider needs and fluctuating ridership.
Here are the four vehicles we recommend that can help mobility services cover all of their bases, including a compact vehicle, minivan, van, and electric vehicle.
Best Compact Vehicle: Honda Civic
Best for: mobility services offering private or shared rides
When it comes to reliable vehicles with longevity, the Honda Civic is usually at front of mind. Equipped with a naturally aspirated, 2.0-litre engine, the compact car is also known for being relatively cheap to maintain. Here are a few other specs to consider for the 2022 LX model:
- Seating capacity: 4 (or 5 with a Hatchback)
- Fuel consumption rate: 7.6 L/100 KM in the city, and 6.1 L/100 KM on the highway
- Starting price for new vehicle: $24,465 USD
- Horsepower: 158
- Projected depreciation rate: 16% over 5 years
Safety tech: The 2022 Honda Civic received a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety rating of 5 stars, and was deemed equipped with all of the recommended safety technologies.
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Best for: mobility services that want to offer car pooling options
The Toyoto Sienna has a sleek and spacious cabin that can seat up to eight occupants. The second-row seats aren’t removable or stowable as is typical with other vans so the seating configuration is fixed. However, the Sienna offers a range of mobility solutions, such as a vehicle ramps and power-lift passenger seat. As a hybrid vehicle, the Sienna features an excellent fuel economy of up to 36 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Here are a few other specs to consider for the 2022 LE model:
- Seating capacity: Up to 8 (when fitted with second-row bench seat)
- Fuel consumption rate: 6.8 L/100 KM in the city, and 6.6 L/100 KM on the highway
- Starting price for new vehicle: $35,285 USD
- Horsepower: 245
- Projected depreciation rate: 23% over 5 years
- Safety tech: The NHTSA gavethe 2022 Toyota Sienna received a 5-star safety rating, and was deemed equipped with all of the recommended safety technologies.
Full-Sized Van: Ford Transit
Best for: mobility services looking to offer accessible or car pooling options
The Ford Transit is available in cargo, crew, and passenger variations. Because of its multi-purpose build, it’s also a highly configurable vehicle, with different roof heights and wheelbases to choose from.
As a passenger vehicle, the Ford Transit sits up to 15 passengers and boasts a quiet cabin at highway speeds, shielding passengers from road noise. The Rear Lift Ford Transit wheelchair van offer better ground & height clearance, easier entry & exit, easier parking, accommodate more than one wheelchair. The van can also be made wheelchair accessible with modifications such as wheelchair restraints, carriers, and lifts. Here are few other specs to consider for the 2022 passenger model:
- Seating capacity: 12 to 15 depending on the model
- Fuel consumption rate: 9.8 L/100 KM in the city, and 8.9 L/100 KM on the highway
- Starting price for new vehicle: $46,645 USD
- Horsepower: 275
- Projected depreciation rate: 27% over 5 years
- Safety tech: The NHTSA has not rated the overall safey of the 2022 Ford Transit, but mentions that the vehicle has all the recommended safety features.
Electric Vehicle: Tesla Model X
Best for: mobility services looking to go green
The Tesla Model X is a battery electric mid-size luxury vehicle with two motors, enabling all-weel-drive capability. Tesla claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.8 seconds. It features standard battery with a 351-mile driving range.
While a Tesla car is not exactly a budget vehicle, Finance Buzz estimates that gassing up a fuel-efficient car like Toyota Camry costs three times than the cost of charging a Tesla. Many states also offer tax credits for people switching to electric or hybrid vehicles.
In addition, the branding potential of an electric vehicle shouldn’t be overlooked. With the growing environmental concerns surrounding ride sharing services in mind, many customers are increasingly looking for greener alternatives. And some companies are meeting that market with zero-emission fleets.
Earth Rides, for instance, is a ride sharing start-up based in Nashville that uses its own fleet of Teslas. Relying on Spare technology to power its operations, Earth Rides launched in 2020 and has since expanded into Austin, with plans to go live Los Angeles, Miami, and Phoenix in 2022. All while remaining true to its zero-emission business pillar.
All said, there are a number of reasons to consider an electric vehicle for your mobility service. Here are few other specs of the 2022 Tesla Model X:
- Seating capacity: Up to 7
- Charging cost: $16-$26 for a full charge, or $0.045-$0.076 per mile
- Starting price for new vehicle: $120,990 USD
- Horsepower: 670
- Projected depreciation rate: 29% over 5 years
- Safety tech: The NHTSA has not rated the safey of the 2022 Tesla Model X, but the 2021 model received a 5-star safety rating and was deemed equipped with all of the recommended safety technologies.
Perhaps you’re serving a niche market and will only need one specific type of vehicle for your mobility services. Otherwise, consider assembling a mixed fleet to serve a range of riders.
One way of effectively diversifying your fleet is through commingling. Commingling is when a mobility provider uses the same fleet for multiple services. For instance, StarTran, the public transit operator in Lincoln, Nebraska, improved the quality of its paratransit service and efficiency of its fixed-route transit network by launching a new on-demand microtransit service that uses the same fleet as its paratransit services.
Mixing fleets can also occur between two different operators. Through the Spare platform, a Safe Rides program at Colorado State University called RamRides was able to form a commingling partnership with Lyft. When RamRides doesn’t have enough drivers or vehicles to meet the demand of students, the program can rely on Lyft’s fleet to increase their supply and ensure all students can access a ride.