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10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

The Evolution of Car Sharing

By Michael Coates & John Addison

Car sharing has changed dramatically since Clean Fleet Report first reported on it more than three years ago. While it was picking up steam at that point, in the years since it has morphed and been influenced by changing technology, both in vehicles and in the software that enables the service. Where car sharing once resembled a rent-by-the-hour system that was a more decentralized version of the traditional car rental, it has now become a ubiquitous system that includes shared use and even cars that drive themselves.  

Car sharing allows households to own only one car, instead of two or three, or for some to forgo car ownership completely, using the variations of car sharing and services to pick a vehicle or ride for a given task and location. For some Americans it gives a chance to drive and experience a different car, maybe an electric car they might be thinking of purchasing.

Like they say about real estate, with car sharing it is location, location, location. The best program for you is a function of where you live and your mobility requirements. But take a look at the

car sharing,uber, lyft,mobility

Car sharing is expanding our mobility

variety of program available. One of the gurus of car sharing, Dr. Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley, says we are in the age of shared mobility where new modes of alternative transportation services are making great changes. “Pushed primarily by demographic shifts, societal attitudes toward ownership, and advances in mobile technology, these modes are growing rapidly and becoming more numerous,” she commented recently. She outlines the variety of choices now available in a white paper. For her car sharing had subcategories of:

  • Roundtrip
  • One-Way
  • Personal Vehicle Sharing (which can include fractional ownership models)

Then there’s scooter sharing and bike sharing (also with subcategories of public, closed campus and peer-to-peer [P2P]).

Competing with car sharing are alternative transit services (shuttles or microtransit), ride sharing (carpooling or vanpooling), on-demand ride services (ridesourcing, ridesplitting or e-hail services) and courier network services (P2P delivery services and paired on-demand passenger ride and courier services).

The choices can be almost overwhelming, so services like Yelp can help you sort out the consumer-facing side of the choices. Where it used to be Hertz or Avis, the choices now are much more complex.

According to Navigant Research, it’s not going to change soon. Their take on car sharing:

Carsharing has become a major global industry. As of 2014, carshare programs were being offered on five continents, in over 30 countries and in hundreds of cities. These cities are at the forefront of the new model of multi-modal on-demand mobility, where citizens can take advantage of a multitude of clean transportation options that meet their needs. Car sharing is one of the industries that has thrived in this new mobility landscape, and it will see continued growth in its current markets as well as expansion into new markets.

Although the carshare service model has been well established over the past 15 years, there have been some significant innovations in the market recently. The success of one-way car sharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model. Such services can increase utilization since members can use one-way carsharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Automakers have entered this market with good results, building substantial membership levels in only a few years. Meanwhile, the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in car sharing services is expected to increase as automakers promote this technology. According to Navigant Research, global car sharing services revenue is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2024.

Lyft

If there was any question about the changing landscape, General Motors’ $500 million investment in the ride sharing company Lyft. The stated goal is to experiment in autonomous on-demand vehicles, hedging the reduction in vehicle sales caused by ride sharing by making GM the preferred vehicle provider for Lyft drivers and integrating connectivity tools like OnStar. Lyft claims it is the fastest-growing ride share service and is available in 190 cities worldwide. Lyft also has rolled out multiple-rider sharing that creates an on-demand carpool.

Uber

Uber,car sharing, ride sharing

Coming to get you

Uber is the Hertz to Lyft’s Avis. It’s available in more than 300 cities around the world and offers a variety of vehicles to fit the needs of your trip, whether its an eco-friendly model or the full black limo experience. Uber’s value proposition is that it is cheaper than using a taxi and much cheaper than using a personal car.

Zipcar

Zipcar has over 730,000 members who reserve and use 11,000 cars by the hour. Their hybrid cars have been popular with members in cities, universities, and fleets. 300 university and college programs are bases for expansion into individual and fleet membership in the surrounding city. Zipcar first included electric cars in 2003 with the Toyota RAV4 EV and has since added Chevrolet Volts and Honda Fit EVs. Zipcar in Houston added 25 Nissan LEAFs. The new EV fleet partnership of Zipcar and the City of Houston is called Houston Fleet Share.

Enterprise Car Share

Although Enterprise is known as a car rental giant, they have expanded into cars sharing 10 years ago, featuring a program rich in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. Enterprise acquired Philly-Car Share and its 13,000 users, then Mint Cars On-Demand, a car-sharing company serving more than 8,000 members in New York City and Boston. It later added Chicago’s 15,000 IGO car sharing service members and now operates on 130 college campuses, 40 government programs and has 300 business accounts in 35 states, Canada and the U.K.

Hertz on Demand

Hertz leverages its huge presence as it expands with car sharing. Hertz has 8,500 locations in 150 countries. A growing number of hybrid and electric cars are offered in the Hertz Green Travel Collection. Its global car share program, Hertz on Demand, launched in December 2008 and has grown to more than 1,000 vehicles, 85,000 members and more than 500 locations worldwide, including corporate fleets, airports, hotels, utilities, government, and universities. The Hertz car share fleet includes many Nissan LEAFs, Chevrolet Volts, Smart Electric Drive, and Mitsubishi i. Hertz claims 74 percent of its U.S. fleet averages more than 28 mpg and 57 percent gets more than 32 mpg. I offers electric vehicles on three continents. It has its “Green Traveler” collection available that averages more than 48 mpg.

Car2go

Car2go, owned by auto giant Daimler, is the world leader in one-way car sharing. Car2go is in 15 North American cities.

2013 smart,low price, electric car

Car2Go features short-term Smart ED drives

Car2go is a point-to-point car sharing service. You pay 41 cents a minute. And all without running fixed costs or deposits, parking charges, fuel costs, or recurring annual fees. No surprise fees are charged for being early or late, like some other car sharing services. You can take any of the car2go vehicles you find distributed around you, or you can reserve an available vehicle 30 minutes before you want to drive. That way, you can get to your destination faster. Once you reach your destination, you can either end your trip in accordance with your city’s Parking Rules, or you can keep it if you want to drive further.

City CarShare

For 15 years, City CarShare has been a non-profit pioneer in car sharing and electric car sharing in San Francisco. As a non-profit with  more than 15,000 members and 400 cars, City CarShare actively works to provide last-miles solutions for public transit. City CarShare promotes equity with CommunityShare and AccessMobile with wheelchair-accessible vehicles. City CarShare promotes sustainability by freeing members from owning cars and by introducing electric car sharing. City Car Share’s fleet is half all-electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i, plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt and hybrids like the Toyota Prius. For each electric car deployed they have at least one dedicated charger; and in several cases, they have installed a second charging station available for public use. They also have an eBikeShare program.

DriveNow

German executives see an increased global interest in using cars as a service, with consumers and fleet managers paying by the minute, hour, and day. BMW ran a successful pilot program of EV car sharing in SF, based on a successful European model, but last year went on hiatus because of a lack of progress in securing parking permit regulatory change.  DriveNow hopes to return to the United States once these issues are sorted out. DriveNow is big in major German cities where the program also includes the bike sharing that inspired one-way carsharing. They’ve also explored using an app that gives the user alternative transportation options, calculating time and cost for each variable.

RelayRides

RelayRides’ peer-to-peer car sharing is part of an emerging trend of the sharing economy. RelayRides enables personal car sharing with web listings, $1 million liability insurance, and GM OnStar support. Investors in RelayRides include Google Ventures and GM Ventures. RelayRides is a leading example of peer-to-peer that is also embraced by other innovators including Wheelz, Getaround, Whipcar, IGO, non-profits, and even pilots among some auto service giants.

vRide

Ridesharing to work carries more people each day than transit. Sharing cars and rides is challenging among strangers. Trust is natural for people who work together. vRide makes it easy for individuals, employers, and transportation managers to facilitate carpooling, vanpooling, and park and ride. Similar organizations that help with facilitating, lunch-and-learns, vehicles, insurance, and ride matching include 511.org and Rideshare by Enterprise.

Getaround

Getaround is free to join. Choose from 1000s of cool cars shared by great people in your neighborhood is the pitch of this peer-to-peer car sharing operation. Convenient hourly and daily rentals. No monthly or annual fees. All Getaround rentals include insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance.

& More

A number of billion dollar giants, venture backed players, and innovators see a major opportunity in the transition for vehicle sales to transportation services. With Daimler and BMW now in the business, Toyota and others are evaluating whether to have their own car sharing program or strengthen partnerships. Audi just invested in Silvercar, what it calls a “next generation” car rental company. Because cars haring is capital intensive, the business is a natural for banking and financial service giants. Sharing, peer-to-peer, and fractional ownership have risk and liability management challenges. Who better to solve these than insurance giant entering the business? With information technology and social networking being integral to innovative mobility sharing, look for new strategic alliances and partnerships.

Bookmark this site and check back as we continue to update this list.

John Addison: Meeting of the Car Sharing Minds

At a meeting several years ago, I (John Addison, founder of Clean Fleet Report) lunched with Zipcar President Mark Norman gave me a good idea of why members prefer the range of carsharing services to owning a car. A member can try an electric car one day, use a larger van to transport 6 people the next, then take an AWD to the mountains on the next. Zipcar’s potential is enormous. By succeeding at a university such as USC in Los Angeles, Zipcar has a base to expand in Southern California’s over 10 million car drivers and massive fleets. I expect Zipcar to soon have over one million members.

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Google autonomous car may be the next thing in car sharing

Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. By using Zipcar’s FastFleet technology, the City of Houston configures its fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization; manages preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution; and uses Zipcar’s analytics with data automatically captured during every trip. Zipcar’s FastFleet technology is used in Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago where DC officials estimate that they save approximately $1 million per year using FastFleet technology.

I talked with Rick Hutchinson, CEO City CarShare, at Meeting of the Minds. As a non-profit, City CarShare actively works to make urban mobility more effective as people combine walking, bicycling, transit, and carsharing. For 11 years, they have modeled best practices, which others learn from including Zipcar, Enterprise, and independents. City CarShare promotes equity with CommunityShare and AccessMobile. They promote sustainability by taking cars off the road and adding electric vehicles.

Susan Shaheen, Co-Director of Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC), has probably done more research about shared-use mobility than anyone. TSRC studies have determined that each carshare membership has resulted in at least 9 vehicles being sold, removed, or purchase-postponed. The biggest shift is one car households becoming car-free due to cars haring; 2 cars to one is another big segment. Her insights greatly helped with this article.

One million U.S. carsharing members will soon become 2 million as people save thousands per year owning one less car. University students, city dwellers, and fleets have new flexibility in getting the right vehicle when needed including roomy sedans, pickup trucks, and even electric cars. Just as we are transitioning from owning expensive computers and software to mobile use of cloud services, transportation has moved beyond just owning a car to a rich menu of transportation services.

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of Source Interlink), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

3 thoughts on “10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

  1. Suraj
    January 13, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services.

    • January 16, 2016 at 11:34 am

      @Suraj,
      Not just Zipcar; all of the car companies are scrambling to make sure they have a piece of this growing mobility pie. –ed.

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