Car sharing programs such as Zipcar and others are becoming popular, as they pose a viable alternative for car ownership to many. Zipcar itself has expanded to 46 college campuses and more than a dozen cities worldwide.
Not everyone needs to buy
The usual car, according to Time Magazine, sits idle for 92 percent of its life. People like urban dwellers with access to public transportation or college students who rarely leave campus can’t necessarily justify buying a vehicle and the costs of fuel, maintenance and upkeep.
That is exactly the reason behind the rise of car sharing companies like Zipcar, a service that has expanded to both coasts of the United States and into Canada and the United Kingdom, according to its website, after being launched in Cambridge, Mass., several years ago.
Scan and go
Subscribers get a Zipcard, an electronic keycard. When they want to use a car, they reserve the one they want via Zipcar’s website or smartphone application and the car’s card reader will be programmed to unlock the vehicle when the user approaches it.
Zipcar users rent cars by the hour or day, and numerous cars are available. Zipcar fleets include everything from a Toyota Prius to MiniCoopers, Audis, BMWs, Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. Gas and insurance, according to Zipcar’s website, are included.
Growing presence on campus
College campuses are a big target market for Zipcar. According to CBS, 46 colleges have Zipcars available. Zipcar fleets have been introduced to 10 universities since December; there were 36 colleges with Zipcars as of September.
The service has also been good for city governments. According to a press release on MarketWatch, using the service has saved about $1 million per year for Washington D.C. after the city started using Zipcar for city business in 2009. The city government of Chicago started using Zipcar in March of 2011, and Zipcar has also just agreed to create a city vehicle program for use by the city government of Boston called “FleetHub,” according to the Boston Herald.
Daimler, parent company of Mercedes Benz, launched a car sharing service called Car2Go in Ulm, Germany, in 2008, but it has since expanded across Germany and into the United States and Canada, according to AutoBlog. It’s similar to Zipcar, renting a fleet of Smart ForTwo city cars.
There are also, according to Time, a growing number of peer-to-peer car sharing services; individual users rent their own car out to others when they aren’t driving it. One such company, Relay Rides, is currently developing in Boston and San Francisco after getting venture funding from Google, General Motors and other companies. There are only about 5,000 members so far. It is estimated that 4 million people or more will be using car sharing services by 2016.
Boston Herald: http://www.bostonherald.com/business/technology/general/view/20220206city_of_boston_launches_zipcar_program_for_employees/srvc=home&position=recent