‘Airbnb’ for electric cars launched in Sweden

A car maker hopes to get Swedes using more electric cars by launching an Airbnb-inspired scheme to help drivers connect.

'Airbnb' for electric cars launched in Sweden
An electric car being charged. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Despite Sweden being famous for its focus on environmental issues, the sale of electric car use has been slow to shift into top gear. But a car maker has told The Local that it is hoping its new scheme, using the sharing economy to boost the sale of its own green-friendly vehicles, will take off among tech-savvy Swedes.

“Electric cars is a reality, but even though it's year 2016, a year when environmental issues are a big topic, the infrastructure is lacking,” Renault spokesperson Lars Höglin said in a statement announcing the launch of the company's new scheme Elbnb, a website that allows Swedish drivers help each other charge their cars.

“The primary goal of Elbnb is to raise awareness of the lack of charging infrastructure,” Höglin told The Local on Wednesday, citing a survey by the company where 51 percent of respondents said that they found the lack of charging points one of the biggest obstacles of driving an electric car.

The scheme lets drivers pin electric charging points at their homes on a map, allowing other drivers to contact them to get help filling up. Together they then agree on a time and cost of the electric charging.

If the concept sounds familiar, it is because it is. The name, in which 'el' is short for 'electricity', is inspired by Airbnb, a website that allows individuals to rent their home to other users.

“The name immediately tells people what it's all about. People are aware about bed and breakfasts and about Airbnb. We think that Airbnb has created something amazing, so it's also kind of a little tribute to them,” says Höglin.

A map showing some of Elbnb's charging points in Sweden. Photo: Elbnb/Renault

The map, which also shows official charging points, counts 50 users since it launched three weeks ago.

“We have increased the amount of charging points in Sweden by four percent in only this three-week period,” says Höglin. 

He hopes the project can next branch out to other countries, with Norway potentially being top of the list since it is “one of the biggest countries concerning electrical vehicles”. Nothing is yet set in stone.

“Environmental questions are a big topic in Sweden, so that's also the reason why we did it in Sweden.”

Höglin reveals that the scheme seems to be fuelling Sweden's 'fika' [coffee and cake] trend as well.

“I saw a user the other day saying that if you stop by, you can come for a coffee as well. So it's turning into a social network.”


Swedish economy to grind to a halt as interest rates kick in

Sweden faces an economic slump next year that will see economic growth grind to a complete stop, Sweden's official government economics forecaster, has warned.

Swedish economy to grind to a halt as interest rates kick in

Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research, which is tasked with tracking the business cycle for the Swedish government, warned in its quarterly forecast on Wednesday that greater than expected energy prices, interest rate rises, and stubborn inflation rates, Sweden was facing a significant downturn. 

The institute has shaved 1.6 percentage points off its forecast for growth in 2023, leaving the economy at a standstill, contracting -0.1 percent over the year. 

The institute now expects unemployment of 7.7 percent in 2023, up from a forecast of 7.5 percent given when in its last forecast in June.

“We can see that households are already starting to reign in their consumption,” said Ylva Hedén Westerdahl, the institute’s head of forecasting, saying this was happening “a little earlier than we had thought”. 

“We thought this would have happened when electricity bills went up, and interest rates went up a little more,” she continued. 

The bank expects household consumption to contract in 2023, something that she said was “quite unusual” and had not happened since Sweden’s 1990s economic crisis, apart from in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This was partly down to a five percent reduction in real salaries in Sweden in 2022, taking into account inflation, which the institute expects to be followed by a further two percent fall in real salaries in 2023. 

If the incoming Moderate-led government goes ahead with plans to reimburse consumers for high power prices, however, this would counterbalance the impact of inflation, leaving Swedish households’ purchasing power unchanged. 

The institute said it expected inflation to average 7.7 percent this year and 4.6 percent in 2023, both higher than it had forecast earlier.

Sweden’s Riksbank central bank this month hike its key interest rate by a full percentage point, after inflation hit 9 percent in August, the biggest single hike since the 1990s.