FRANKFURT - German auto parts supplier Bosch is launching an electric van-sharing service in Germany, expanding its reach in rentals and pitting it against some of its vehicle-making customers who are also expanding into pay-per-minute mobility services.
Bosch said on Tuesday it will team up with Toom, part of German retailer REWE, to supply battery-driven vans that people can hire to transport bulky purchases from hardware stores.
German cities are banning older diesel vehicles, hastening the switch to electric and benefiting firms like Bosch, which supplies components to electric vehicle makers.
Combined with the emergence of smartphone-hailed rental technology, which allows people to use vehicles by the minute without owning them, this is turning the relationship between car manufacturers and their suppliers on its head.
"A service for sharing electric vans has huge potential for growth," Rainer Kallenbach, president of the Connected Mobility Solutions division at Bosch said in a statement.
The Bosch electric vans will be supplied by StreetScooter, a German startup carmaker owned by logistics company Deutsche Post, which uses powertrain components supplied by Bosch.
StreetScooter on Tuesday unveiled a separate alliance with Ford to build larger electric delivery vans for logistics company DHL.
The market for electric delivery vans is expected to grow after Germany's highest court in February allowed cities to ban older diesel vehicles and after Berlin on Tuesday was forced to consider imposing bans to improve air quality.
EU lawmakers last week backed a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and vans by an ambitious 40 percent by 2030, a target which the car industry, already struggling to meet emissions standards, said is completely unrealistic.
Stuttgart-based Bosch said that if the electric van sharing service proves popular, its plans to expand it to other partners including supermarkets and furniture stores.
The Toom alliance marks a further step into on-demand vehicle rental services for Bosch, which already runs Coup, an electric scooter rental service, in Paris, Berlin and Madrid.
Bosch has shied away from competing against traditional automakers in areas like vehicle manufacturing, fearing it could alienate components and systems clients like VW and Ford.
But with new rivals like software company Alphabet developing fully fledged self-driving vehicles, auto suppliers and carmakers are ramping up efforts to understand smartphone-based mobility as a prelude to managing fleets of robotaxis.
Self-driving cars will allow carmakers and software companies to offer ride-hailing without having to pay drivers.
Bosch is already collaborating with Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler to develop self-driving cars.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alexander Smith)