RelayRides, which aims to help people rent out their personal vehicles, launched today and said it raised its first round of investment from Google Ventures and August Capital. It’s part of a trend in which companies are using the web to help people share “stuff.”
Two projects that will bring electric vehicles to Bay Area residents in indirect ways — taxis and car-sharing — were unveiled today. It’s not unusual for alternative vehicles to make it first to these types of ecosystems before they become mainstream via consumer purchases.
For anyone who’s ever borrowed a car through Zipcar or San Francisco’s City CarShare program, and then grumbled over the fact that the meter runs until you return it to Point A, when you want to stay at Point B (been there, done that), prepare for a wave of envy (got that) over Daimler’s (s DAI) planned car-sharing program for Austin, Texas. The company announced yesterday that it will roll out its “mobility concept,” car2go, in the city this fall following the expansion of a pilot program in Germany.
Daimler will place 200 Smart Fortwo cars with micro-hybrid drive throughout the city. If you’re a registered member, you can pre-book the cars online or via mobile phone, or check out an available vehicle on the spot (once you register, you can swipe in using a card reader on the windshield, like ZipCar). When you’re done, you can return the car to any unoccupied parking space within a set operation area. And they charge by the minute, hour or day — so you don’t have to pay for more than you actually use. Brilliant!
OK, clearly some things could go wrong. What if there aren’t enough cars to go around? What if you get stranded and all the car2go vehicles are in use? And just how big is this operation area, anyway? It would have to be more than a few city blocks to solve my Point A-B problem. But this still sounds like an improvement that could help make a carshare/mass transit combo more practical, a step toward weaning more people from reliance on personal vehicles. Hey Daimler, how about launching a pilot in San Francisco?
We were so excited about the news that City CarShare would be getting a new plug-in Prius in San Francisco that we logged into our account this afternoon to see when the car would be available. Once there, we discovered a list of cars that will supposedly be available for City CarShare customers in conjunction with the “Green Vehicle Showcase,” a group of green cars that the city of San Francisco is showing off near City Hall. Among the City CarShare vehicles listed in the showcase is the Think EV (see image below), which would be unusual, given that Think doesn’t appear to yet be selling its electric vehicles in North America. Then again, the company had been planning to offer its first vehicles to city fleets.
But when we chatted with City CarShare spokesperson Anita Daley, she said the inclusion of the Think EV and some of the other cars in the Green Vehicle Showcase was the result of a glitch that exposed the backend database; City CarShare does not currently have a Think EV in its possession. It had one several years ago (when Ford made them for the U.S. market), she said, but gave it up when the line was recalled. Daley did add, however, that City CarShare is considering a variety of new yet-to-be announced plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (beyond the plug-in Prius announced this morning) and that it will be offering those sometime soon.
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