By John Addison. New car sharing programs allow two or more people to need only one car. Each shared vehicle results in 6 to 23 cars not being owned. Once someone joins a car share program, they cut their vehicle miles traveled up to 80 percent. Introduced first in Europe, car sharing is now growing in the United States with over 200 car share programs operating in over 600 cities.
Zipcar is the leader in car sharing with over 260,000 members. Car sharing is popular with individuals who live car free in a city, with couples who share one car, with university students and staff, and with corporate fleet and travel managers.
Zipcar makes car sharing easy. After a simple enrollment a member is issued a Zipcard. Members reserve a car online or on the phone. At the appropriate hour, they go to their designated car, parked in one of many lots in the city. A Zipcard is used to enter the vehicle and drive until returned to the reserved parking space. A variety of vehicles are available in their program from hybrids to SUVs.
Hertz, as the largest international rental car company, has entered the car sharing market by launching the Connect by Hertz car sharing club, with neighborhood parking in London, New York City and Paris. Hertz plans to expand into additional cities, as well as universities, in 2009. As Hertz expands, it can leverage its established presence in 8,100 locations in 144 countries worldwide.
Membership in Connect by Hertz includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Connect by Hertz members enjoy a paperless program where they can reserve, drive and return vehicles all on their own, via the internet or phone. “Connect by Hertz supports Hertz’s diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs,” commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and CEO of The Hertz Corporation. “In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz’s established infrastructure, we’re the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program.”
The showcase car of the Connect by Hertz fleet in the United States is the Toyota Prius. The fuel emissions of the London and Paris cars are significantly less than the voluntary target of a maximum 140 g/km CO2 output set by the EU.
To unlock and engage the Hertz vehicle, members simply swipe their membership card, the Connect card, over the car’s radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader. In car, a hands-free audio kit connects members to a Member Care Center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental. The in-car technology also enables Connect by Hertz to ‘communicate’ with the vehicle enabling representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. The technologically savvy cars are also equipped with iPod connectivity and, in the US, NeverLost® in-car navigation systems and EZ Pass transponders.
Hertz may prove to be tough competition in market segments where it is already strong, such as corporate and fleet programs. Enterprise and Zipcar are starting to compete in these areas. Jeff Parell, senior vice president, Enterprise, emphasized, “Our WeCar program can be customized to fit the unique needs of any of our partners, including businesses, government agencies, and universities. So, it gives employees or students the flexibility to attend off-site business meetings, visit customers or vendors…”
Brendan Lange personally lives car free, but is enthusiastic about Zipcar for Business. Brendan’s firm coordinates major corporate events and meetings. Brendan’s job is to help clients make the events greener with the best selection of venues, food, beverage, and other choices. Through Zipcar the firm can use different types of vehicles by the hour to match varied needs: little cars for errands, small SUVs for hauling stuff, and upscale four-door sedans for taking clients on tours of potential event sites.
San Francisco claims to be the most successful city in car sharing. Although Hertz has not entered the S.F. car share market, Zipcar has strong competition from City CarShare, a nonprofit with a diverse fleet that includes cars that can fit in city parking spaces too small for many vehicles including Volkswagen Beetles, Mini Coopers, and Smart cars. City CarShare has more than 6,000 members in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. “Two-thirds of our members either sell a car or don’t buy a car,” said CEO Rick Hutchinson.
United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated, “I’m proud to be a long-time supporter of City CarShare and I applaud their members for saving more than 1 million gallons of gas over the last five years.”
Car sharing is destined to grow and attract growing competition.
Copyright © John Addison. Excerpts of this article will appear in his upcoming book – Save Gas, Save the Planet. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.