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Business models for shared mobility:

Accelerating the transition toward a climate neutral transportation system

Published onJun 21, 2023
Business models for shared mobility:
Erika Kriukelyte*,1, Matthias Lehner2, Anna Kramers1
1KTH Royal institute of technology, SEED, Strategic Sustainability Studies, Stockholm, Sweden.
2International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, P.O., Box 196, 22100 Lund, Sweden
*[email protected]

Extended abstract

The overall vision of the EU Commission´s Green Deal, introduced in 2019, is for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 (European Commission, n.d.). To achieve the proposed goal, a 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is needed in transport-related activities (Ibid.). In 2020, the transportation sector accounted for the second biggest expenditure in household incomes; it represents 5% of the total European GDP; and it employs around 10 million people; which makes it a critical sector for European business. Simultaneously, emissions related to transportation account for 25% of the total EU´s greenhouse gas emissions (Ibid.). Currently, proposed measures among other things address the need for shifting toward climate-neutral technologies such as electric vehicles and “to ensure better integration between public transport and shared and active mobility” (European Commission, 2021).

In this paper, we focus on new shared mobility services that during the last decade disrupted mobility travel patterns in urban areas. The rapid rollout of some of these services left public authorities in the need for decision-making in uncertainty, without an understanding of these new businesses or possible implications to the transport sector. The emerging mobility services aspire “to address the gap in the supply and demand for sustainable mobility in cities” (Cohen & Kietzmann, 2014: 282) while shifting from traditional product ownership to a usership model with more efficient, flexible, and responsive solutions based on technological and business innovations (Calderón & Miller, 2019; Docherty et al., 2018). As the shared mobility market is still fluid and maturing and there is minimal empirical evidence supporting the claimed sustainability implication of these new services, ways to assess possible outcomes need to be investigated.

Business models (BM) have the potential to contribute to systemic change (Sarasini & Linder, 2018; Bidmon & Knab, 2018; Teece, 2010), but they need to be managed. Schaltegger et al. (2012) claim: “A business case for sustainability has to be created and managed – it does not just happen”; a position consolidated by Curtis & Mont (2020) in the context of sharing economy. The last decade was marked by different attempts in conceptualizing tools for sustainable business models through sustainable business model archetypes by Bocken et al. (2014), triple layered business model (Joyce & Paquin, 2016), sharing economy business model tool (Curtis and Mont, 2020) or circular economy business model discussion (Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2019). Though, when it comes to the transport sector, there is no established tool to support the development of sustainable mobility business models. To fill this knowledge gap, we decide to look back to the fundamental elements within business model conceptualization as described by Teece (2010: 191) “A business model describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery and capture mechanisms employed” and embed it with desired outcomes discussed in the sustainable transport literature to develop a BM modeling tool for mobility services.

For this purpose, we address two research questions: (1) What kind of attributes and conditions are relevant in the modeling of mobility service business models? (2) How do these different mobility service business models contribute to sustainable mobility?

In the process of conceptually discussing the modeling tool based on BM and sustainable transportation, we hope to contribute to advancing research in sustainable mobility literature with a focus on the new mobility services in the context of the sustainable business model to understand the conditions that could support the required transition. At the same, through actionable knowledge, we hope to support both the mobility sector entrepreneurs and policymakers in building new partnerships and using new ways to tackle environmental issues.


In the investigation of a novel phenomenon, the important step in knowledge creation comes from structuring and systematizing the various manifestation of the phenomenon into classes, which informs the consolidation process in research and support the distribution of knowledge in a transparent, consensual, and repeatable manner (Lüdeke-Freund et al., 2018). To operationalize BM elements, morphological analysis (MA) is selected with the purpose to support data gathering and conceptualization as it provides a flexible structure and easy applicability in practice. The main principle of MA is to develop a morphological box that helps to simplify and identify different variables of the complex problem through the structuring of all possible and potential solutions (variables and conditions) to existing problems (business models) (Kley, Lerch & Dallinger, 2011).

Due to the rich variety of unique BMs in the new mobility arena, we decided to focus on three broad segments within the mobility market - carsharing, ride-sharing, and shared micro-mobility (referring to sharing of a range of small lightweight vehicles operated by users and reaching below 25 km/h, for example, bikes, e-scooters among other things); inspired by Cohen & Kietzmann (2014) work on shared mobility and adjusted for developments since the publication of their work.

The creation of a morphological box usually constitutes an iterative process that requires the identification of dimensions (in our case value creation, delivery, and capture) of variables and then conditions for each of the variables (Ritchey 2011). For this, we applied both a narrative literature review on SBM literature and sustainable transportation literature. We supplement and validate our findings with empirical data from 15 interviews and workshops conducted in Sweden. All semi-structured interviews were conducted with mobility services providers and public actors during summer/fall 2022 to gain a better understanding of companies' BM and efforts to contribute to sustainability goals within transportation. Three additional knowledge co-production workshops were held in 2021/22 with actors representing the private and public mobility sector in Stockholm, Sweden. The empirical data provide valuable input on conditions that need to be considered and also identify relational dependency between selected variables.

Expected results

A morphological box was created based on the collected data. Table 1 shows the preliminary results of our initial analysis. As we progress with our analysis, the results are still subject to changes. With the help of the MB, the selected segments representing the mobility market (carsharing, ride-sourcing, and shared micro-mobility) are re-created and analyzed in relation to potential contributions to sustainable mobility. With the help of empirical data, MB connects attributes representing the needs and responsibilities of both private and public actors. Simultaneously, with the help of real-life examples, MB is put into practice to discuss interdependencies between specific conditions and their implications for a desired sustainable transition.

Preliminary conclusions

- New shared mobility services have the potential to contribute to achieving goals stated in the EU transportation green deal when their BMs are supported by external development.

- Successful SBMs in transportation need to be both service-specific but also context specific.

- Better understanding of the mobility service BMs through MB allows for identifying interdependencies between service segments and their BM, which could be used as a support in selecting partners and innovations.

- The results also reinforce the position described in previous research that to achieve sustainability outcomes, BM needs to be deliberatively created and managed (ref from the intro) both by the internal process but also by the external environment (Schaltegger et al., 2012; Bocken & Shorts, 2021).


Shared mobility services, sustainable business model, urban transportation, morphological analysis


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