After first launching in Ulm, Germany in 2008, then subsequently establishing operations in Austin (Texas) and Hamburg, the car2go car-sharing program is now coming to Canada. As of this June, registered members of Vancouver, British Columbia's car2go group will be able to use any of the 225 purpose-designed Smart Fortwos in the local fleet, which can be picked up and dropped off at designated parking spots throughout the city.

As is the case with the car2go vehicles in Germany and the U.S., each of the petrol-powered Canadian cars has a solar panel built into its roof. Electricity generated by that panel allows the alternator to be decoupled while driving, which is said to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent. The panel also charges the battery, runs the fan while the car is parked in the sun, and powers an onboard telemetrics system. That system allows users to activate the car by entering their PIN on a dashboard touchscreen, and also keeps track of things such as location and distance traveled.

Members can reserve cars, or simply jump in any available vehicle as they need it – a smartphone app, telephone service or the local car2go website will direct them to the nearest one. When finished with the vehicle, they simply leave it at the closest permit-only or assigned car2go parking space. Charges are based on the amount of time that the car is driven, at a rate of 35 cents a minute, although hourly and daily rates work out to less.

Vancouver is currently working towards a goal of becoming the world's greenest city by 2020, and the adoption of car2go is part of that initiative. Interested Vancouverites can pre-register for the service starting today, through the car2go Vancouver website.

There are currently over 35,000 car2go members in Ulm and Austin, with another operation set to open in Amsterdam later this year.

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