car2go, the innovative car sharing program first seen in Ulm, Germany, has launched in Austin, Texas. A joint partnership between the City of Austin and Daimler will initially see 200 smart fortwo vehicles made available 24/7 within the city to a select group of city employees and their relatives, with plans to increase the number of cars and make them accessible to all Austin residents and students in early 2010.
The Ulm car2go pilot launched in October 2008 proved a success with the project’s 200 vehicles rented 500 to 1,000 times per day. They are used by 15,000 customers, which equals more than 15 percent of the citizens who possess a driver’s license in Ulm. Although the system allows users to book a vehicle in advance, the pilot showed that 90 percent of the participants take advantage of the unique offer to use car2go spontaneously and for one-way trips.
For the Austin pilot, the pick up and drop off area is limited to the greater downtown Austin area, which has an expansion of about 17 square miles where more than 60,000 employees work. Charges are not based on distance, but on time – with rates starting by the minute and competitive hourly or daily rates available for those needing longer rental periods. The rates are all-inclusive, with the cost of all fuel, maintenance and insurance taken care of.
There’s also no need to feed the meter with city-controlled parking fees waived thanks to a deal that sees car2go paying a usage fee to the City of Austin in the form of free driving minutes for employees driving on City business. But the loss of parking revenue should be offset by the reduction in fuel and operating costs for city employee vehicles.
“The City of Austin is committed to identifying and implementing solutions to address the challenges associated with urban growth, mobility and environmental sustainability,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “This pilot-program partnership between car2go and the City of Austin represents a significant step toward helping us alleviate congestion, reduce emissions and increase the use of public transportation.”
According to car2go, the car sharing market in the US is enjoying the highest growth rate in the world, which is why they made a very conscious decision to bring the concept to a North American city. One of the many reasons the Texan metropolis of 750,000 on the Colorado River was selected as the first international site was due to its similarity to Ulm as a science-oriented and university city.
The Austin pilot will see the city become the official headquarters of car2go in North America and is part of the company’s plans to extend the system internationally.
”The goal of the Austin pilot project is to gather experience we can use to ensure the public launch of car2go in North America in 2010 is successful,“ says Nicholas Cole, CEO of car2go North America LLC. “In the second phase we will increase the number of cars in Austin and open the service to the public. We are also talking to a large number of cities in North America and Europe about additional rollouts of car2go.”