Photo © DB Connect / Timo Volz
What is it? DB Connect is part of the Deutsche Bahn Group (German Railway) and is “dedicated to improving mobility even beyond the rail network” (DB Connect, 2021a). The company aims to provide a mobility network with solutions that create links between rail and road transport (DB Connect, 2021a), most prominently its Flinkster carsharing and Call a Bike bike-sharing systems, which provide connections to railway stations in 400 and 80 German cities, respectively. DB Connect offers mobility solutions for companies, private customers and municipalities, including the Bonvoyo mobility budget solutions for organisations and Curbside Management for municipalities (DB Connect, 2021a). Through its extensive mobility network, DB Connect facilitates sustainable transport on the first and last mile and reduces the need for car ownership through its first and last mile offerings and in day-to-day mobility.
Why is this important? Cars are a building block of many transport systems, accounting for 83% of personal transport in the EU, and the numbers of cars is growing (Material Economics, 2018). Personal car use is highly inefficient, with cars being used on average at only 2% of their capacity, with vehicles being stationary 92% of the time and five-seater cars mostly used by only one passenger (Material Economics, 2018). With car-sharing systems, the requirements for new production and materials could fall significantly and therefore a large amount of CO2 emissions could be avoided (Material Economics, 2018). In addition, cars are not the most sustainable mobility solution. For long-distance travel, public transport in the form of rail transport is less greenhouse gas-intensive and for short-distance travel, particularly in urban areas, bicycles are a greener alternative that encourages lower emissions as well as better air quality, more public space and additional health benefits (European Environmental Agency, 2021). These alternatives to car transport are crucial components of a more sustainable mobility system.
Main resource strategy: Slowing the loop – Providing car-and-bike-sharing, ensuring high usage of assets and repair when needed.
Other resource strategies: Narrowing the loop by encouraging less resource-intensive mobility solutions.
Business model aspects:
- Value Proposition: For private customers, DB Connect offers the Flinkster car sharing and Call a Bike service to connect to the railway network and for everyday shared mobility. For businesses and municipalities, the company offers mobility services and consulting tailored to their needs, including access to the DB Connect car- and bike-sharing network for employees through special fares, exclusive company car- and bike-sharing fleets or the Bonvoyo mobility budget. In addition, DB Connect offers Curbside Management, a service solution that supports municipalities in dedicating public space for shared mobility services. It connects different shared mobility offers on a virtual city map through live data feed-in to allow cities to allocate public space with greater efficiency, increasing public acceptance and sustainable urban transport.
- Value Creation & Delivery: Flinkster Carsharing is Germany’s largest station-based Carsharing network, based on vehicles from around 30 partner organisations, including DB Connect (DB Connect, 2021b). The over 4,500 vehicles in approx. 400 urban areas are based at pick-up and drop-off stations and include a variety of different cars to suit the customers’ needs (DB Connect, 2021b). The Call a Bike service is available in over 80 German cities and hosts a total of 16,000 bicycles which can be accessed through a smartphone application. The bicycles feature gear switches, roller breaks and cargo racks and have been marked as very safe by German consumer advocacy organization Stiftung Warentest (DB Connect, 2021c). The systems in Stuttgart and Hamburg also offer cargo-pedelecs and -bikes in addition to non-electric bicycles.
- Value Capture: For the Flinkster and Call a Bike services, value is captured through rental through smartphone apps. For Flinkster, the hire price starts at €1.50 per hour or €39 for a whole day. These costs include refueling, repairs and insurance (DB Connect, 2021b). Prices for the Call a Bike service start at €3/year sign-up fee and a usage fee of €1 for 30 minutes (DB Connect, 2021c). Value is also captured through providing services to businesses and municipalities. For businesses, tailored mobility solutions for their staff can be developed. For municipalities, DB Connect offers bike-sharing systems as a full-service-provider and provides digital service offerings such as its Curbside Management service tool.
Strategies for degrowth/ sufficiency (based on sufficiency strategies from Niessen & Bocken, 2021):
- Awareness-raising: The company provides clear messaging around the positive environmental impact from such consumption switches, including “If you’re with us, you’re for the environment: When you leave your car parked and take more trips by bike, you are actively doing your part to defend the environment” (DB Connect, 2021c) or “Carsharing reduces resource consumption and is a visible demonstration of your commitment to greater sustainability” (DB Connect, 2021d). In addition, the Flinkster service offers tips for environmentally friendly driving behavior on its website (Flinkster, 2021).
- Green alternative: By bringing more people to the train network, the DB Connect services enable passengers to use the train more frequently. Additionally, the car- and bike-sharing solutions help move users away from private vehicle ownership towards more sustainable alternatives: “you can use rail services and the road network just how you want, all without the need for a car of your own” (DB Connect Home).
Business model experimentation practices: In addition to providing the infrastructure for the sharing solutions Flinkster and Call a Bike, DB Connect also offers tailored support and services to businesses and municipalities. The mobility solutions Bonvoyo (mobility budget/account) and Curbside Management are more recently established services. For the Curbside Management service, the company is looking for an urban partner to pilot the solution (as of March 2021) (DB Connect, 2021e).
Sustainability outcomes: DB Connect estimates that, annually, 7,000 tons of CO2 emissions are avoided through Call-a-Bike usage replacing car rides. Additionally, the company is in the process of implementing a CO2-tracker in its Bonvoyo app to provide transparent insights into the users' environmental footprint and set a calculation base for emissions compensation.
DB Connect (2021a). Deutsche Bahn Connect. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://www.deutschebahnconnect.com/en
DB Connect (2021b). Flinkster. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://www.deutschebahnconnect.com/en/products/flinkster
DB Connect (2021c). Call a Bike. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://www.deutschebahnconnect.com/en/products/call-a-bike
DB Connect (2021d). Flinkster for Business. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://www.deutschebahnconnect.com/en/products/flinkster-for-business
DB Connect (2021e). Curbside management. Accessed 29 March 2021 at: https://www.deutschebahnconnect.com/produkte/curbside-management
European Environmental Agency (2021). Rail and waterborne — best for low-carbon motorised transport. Briefing no. 01/2021. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/rail-and-waterborne-transport
Flinkster (2021). Grüne Mobilität. Accessed 31 March 2021 at: https://anmeldung.flinkster.de/de/gute-gruende/gruene-mobilitat
Material Economics (2018). The Circular Economy – A Powerful Force for Climate Mitigation. Accessed 29 March 2021 at https://www.sitra.fi/en/publications/circular-economy-powerful-force-climate-mitigation/
Niessen, L., & Bocken, N. M. P. (2021). How can businesses drive sufficiency? The business for sufficiency framework. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 28, 1090-1103. doi:10.1016/j.spc.2021.07.030
About project Circular X
Project Circular X is about ‘Experimentation with Circular Service Business Models’. It is an ambitious research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which supports top researchers from anywhere in the world. Project CIRCULAR X runs from 2020-2025. The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Prof Dr Nancy Bocken, who is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), Maastricht School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. The project cooperates with businesses who want to innovate towards the circular economy.
Project Circular X addresses a new and urgent issue: experimentation with circular service business models (CSBMs). Examples of such new business models include companies shifting from selling products to selling services and introducing lifelong warrantees to extend product lifetimes. However, CSBMs are far from mainstream and research focused on experimentation is little understood. The research aims to conduct interdisciplinary research with 4 objectives:
- Advancing understanding of CSBMs; their emergence and impacts
- Advancing knowledge on CSBM experimentation
- Developing CSBM experimentation tools
- Designing and deploying CSBM experimentation labs
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 850159.
Using this information
When you cite this publication, please use the following source:
Circular X. (2021) Case study: DB Connect - Green everyday mobility services. Accessed from www.circularx.eu