Rowan has been an environmental activist for decades. About 10 years ago, at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival, he discovered two guys with an idea: a tech platform that facilitates and promotes car sharing.
He had discovered the founders of Car Next Door.
What he didn’t know then was just how powerful the idea would become. Fast forward ten years, and it supports not just Rowan, but his entire community to live more sustainably.
From bike activist to driving instructor
Rowan now runs a driver training business and has bought an electric vehicle (EV). Despite being someone who advocates for lower emissions, flying less and riding bikes, he suddenly found himself owning three cars.
He offloaded the conventional petrol car, but kept the hybrid vehicle and started sharing it on Car Next Door.
Firstly, the car is paying for itself. “It's paying its way. It covers all costs, and people are getting to use it.”
But it was always about more than money for Rowan.
Helping to lower emissions neighbourhood wide
“My borrowers live in the inner city. By sharing my relatively efficient hybrid car, they don't have to own a car and take up precious parking space. But they get a car when they need it. It's a win-win in terms of urban amenity and environment, plus my investment and all the financials.”
It also supports his use of an EV. “It means I have a back-up car so I'm able to operate this electric vehicle as my primary teaching vehicle with zero emissions — I charge it mostly on wind and solar. And all my students get introduced to electric vehicle technology. EVs are even being normalised for Vic Roads driving test instructors. They love it!”
Unless you forget your umbrella, you probably won’t meet Rowan when you borrow his car. But the ripple effect is powerful. Rowan’s community has collectively lower emissions, owns less cars and uses less resources.
Rowan grew up learning about energy from his late dad, an engineer with the State Electricity Commission. Now he rides an electric bike and takes the tram when he can. “I didn't own a car before I became a driving instructor. I was actually a volunteer bicycle tutor.”
They renovated their house seven years ago, completely electrifying it from top to bottom. They even wired in an EV charging station — 5 years before Rowan bought his EV. These seemed like bold decisions at the time, but they’ve quickly become more mainstream.
Active with Friends of the Earth and Yes 2 Renewables, Rowan arguably does more than most of us to make his environmental beliefs a reality. But there was something he couldn’t quite get past — private car ownership.
Using Car Next Door to change cultural ideas
Car Next Door led Rowan to a profound shift. “It enabled me to make a long-held idea real — that exclusive private car ownership is unnecessary. And to get over the cultural attachment to ‘my’ car.”
“A large part of that comes down to the design and function of the app, which makes everything easy. You can do everything through it. The social screening, damage and loss cover, the bookings. It’s all taken care of.”
For Rowan, this enabled a psychological shift that nothing else had done.
“It's still my private car, but in my mind it's also a public asset and I'm really happy with that. A car no longer needs to be a status symbol, but rather a tool for life. A community asset.”
Interested in putting your car to work or starting a business like Rowan? Learn more about sharing your car.