Testing: Can moovel move me?

All services in a single app? That’s exactly what consumers want. It would eliminate the app chaos on smartphones and mean that users would no longer have to tediously switch between a variety of offers. moovel wants to be such an app for inner-city mobility. I took a close look at the app to find how it works in detail.

Should I take a taxi to get to my next appointment? Or should I rather rent a bicycle? If you are like me and don’t have a car, you often have to think about how you are going to reach your destination. The moovel app wants to bring together as many mobility services as possible. No matter whether these offers are carsharing services, tram rides, or rental bikes.

The app shows me how I can reach my destination and enables me to directly book the transport system that I wish to use. That, at least, is what it does in theory. The concept is to create a one-stop shop. Some people have never heard of this concept. I’m one of them. As a student of the Cologne School of Journalism I set out to extensively test the app and its concept. The results included a fun trip in a “city runabout” as well as a relaxing cab ride. However, I had to face a number of challenges until I got that far.

What the moovel app has to offer

moovel cooperates with other companies that are already active on their own account and integrates their offers into its app. The current range of services includes the rental vehicles of car2go as well as the cab rides of the online provider mytaxi.

With regard to rail vehicles, you can book tickets for the Hamburg and Stuttgart local public transportation systems, for example, as well as for the trains of Deutsche Bahn. If you like to cycle, you can rent a bike from providers such as nextbike.

Surprisingly easy start

I had no problems registering in the app. The app was immediately usable after I had entered my name and my contact and payment details. However, to use the rental feature of car2go, the app also asked me for a picture of my driver’s license and a self-portrait in order to verify that I am permitted to drive a car. I felt somewhat uneasy when I provided the system with sensitive data about myself.

The producers of moovel promise to comply with German data protection standards. The necessary evil here is trust, because I can’t get a rental vehicle if I don’t supply the required data. By the way, it can take several hours until the verification process is completed. You should therefore enter your details well in advance if you wish to drive off on the same day.

I found the app very intuitive to use during my test. A map shows all of the means of transportation that are available in the local area. After I decided which means of transportation I wanted to use, I clicked on it and obtain additional information such as a vehicle’s location, the charge status of an electric car, or the price.

Instead of selecting a specific transportation system, I can simply enter the address of my destination. The app will then give me a list of different options. In doing so, moovel also calculates any costs that may accrue in advance. If the taxi is too expensive, I can rent a car instead.

How things went with my rental car

I was particularly curious about the carsharing services of car2go. If there’s a rental vehicle nearby, I can reserve it with a click. This means that the car is blocked for other users for the next 20 minutes so that I have enough time to find it. The app therefore shows me the vehicle’s exact location.

After I got to the car, I opened the door with a click on the app. I then took the key out of the holder on the dashboard, started the engine, and drove off. Everything went surprisingly fast during the test.

The electric smarts especially promise to offer a lot of driving pleasure. The two-seater is small and the space for legs makes me think of cheap flights. On a positive note, the smart weighs so little that it can accelerate very rapidly.

During my test, I sometimes almost got a kart feeling when I was driving along an open stretch of road. But I always stayed within the speed limit, of course. No doubt about it.

I also found it easy to get a parking space. Thanks to their compact dimensions, smarts fit into almost any space. You can park on any public parking lot and don’t need a ticket. Private and company parking lots are off limits, however. If the two-seater is too small for you, you might be lucky to find a Mercedes A-Class or B-Class nearby, depending on the city in which you are. This enables small groups of people to travel together to their destination. You can find a list of all the available car2go vehicles for the various cities here.

Be aware of limits

However, the fun driving a rental smart also had its limits — geographic ones. That’s because car2go only serves a limited local area. This can even extend to inner-city districts. In Cologne, for example, the Nippes neighborhood with its popular zoo is not part of the operating area. Although you can drive and stop outside of the operating area, I wasn’t allowed to leave the vehicle there.

I therefore warn all lazybones that you may have to walk the last part of your trip if you live in a remote neighborhood. It’s therefore essential that you check out the operating area beforehand.

All keys are not equal

However, if I park the vehicle as stipulated within the operating area, the app will show me a check list. It asks me whether the lights are switched off, for example, and if the windows are closed. The list is meant to make the checkout easier. However, I found one thing to be somewhat challenging during the test: putting the key back correctly into its holder. In the app it is not clearly explained how this has to be done.

The problem is that an electronic chip fob is attached to the car key. The key and the chip fit into the intended slot on the dashboard. But if you don’t remember how you pulled the key out of the holder, you will probably try to stick it back in the wrong way round, which means that you will insert the key instead of the chip.

I eventually solved this seemingly insurmountable problem of my first drive. It enabled me to finally lock the car door, but it cost me a considerable amount of time before I thought of the solution. It also cost me some money because the app calculates your use per driven minute. The rental period ends as soon as the key is put back into its holder the right way round.

Drivers should therefore also avoid getting stuck in traffic jams or traveling along streets that have many traffic lights. Otherwise, you will have to pay more than the app calculated in advance.

Stress-free by train or cab

If you don’t want to use the city runabout despite its great driving pleasure (you should really try it out — it’s worth it!), you can instead have moovel determine the fastest route by bus or train to your destination. Simply enter the address of your destination or the bus or train stop and then select the connection you want.

The public transportation services in Hamburg and Stuttgart can be booked on moovel with a few clicks, as can the tickets of Deutsche Bahn. The app displays all of the different ticket prices, enabling the user to compare them. And don’t worry, the overview page first displays the Deutsche Bahn’s standard prices. You can afterward select a special-price ticket or get a discount if you have a Bahncard, for example.

If you want to travel in an even more relaxed way, you can also use moovel to hail a taxi. It works just like renting a car. I click on any cab that may be nearby and hail it. My smartphone’s location sharing feature lets the driver know where he had to pick me up. I get a cost estimate as soon as I enter my destination address. This estimate was very accurate during my test. The ride was estimated to cost €18 and I actually paid €18.20 in the end.

Once I have booked a taxi, the app shows me the driver’s name and picture. This boosts my confidence. If the driver picks me up, he will know my name too, because the user’s name appears at the bottom of the taxi’s screen. As a result, you can no longer hide behind the facade of an anonymous traveler. That’s fair in a way, because I also know who is driving me home. The benefits compared to the traditional way of hailing a cab: The driver can always see my exact location, so there is no way we will miss each other.

Moreover, the driver already knows the address of my destination. This makes mytaxi a safe means of getting home even for party animals after a night on the town. It does have one minor drawback, though. If you’d like to give the taxi driver a tip for his amusing chat, you’ll have no choice but to be generous, because the app only allows you to select tips of 10, 15, or 20 percent of the cab fee.

Everything in one app — unfortunately not yet for all cities

My assessment: Whereas I would otherwise need many different apps, moovel provides me with an overview of all of the available means of transportation and lets me decide on the spur of the moment. During the test, the app worked completely intuitively with regard to the rental car, the train ticket, and the taxi, even though a few of the functions still caused me some problems.

Unfortunately, only the residents of a few big cities can currently use the full range of services. That’s because the full scope of the app still isn’t available yet everywhere. In my case, for example, the services provided by nextbike in Stuttgart were missing. This means that more of the app has to be provided — and hopefully soon.

Laurin Meyer is a student at the Cologne School of Journalism and works as a freelance writer for dailies and magazines.