CAR2GO Press Conference
I was quite delighted to be invited to the Car2Go press conference today in the Salt Building at what used to be the Olympic Village. There was a lot of press and tv in attendance – and the Vancouver Sun had a story this morning. Just to be extra careful, I must make clear that the programme is not launched yet – in the sense of being able to take out a car. They have opened registrations but the cars themselves will not be available until June 18. However it is worth pre-registering now – but you will have to read the rest to get the promo code.
What makes this program different from the car share programs currently operating here (like Modo or zipcar) is that you do not have to return the car from where you got it. Like some of the new bike sharing programs, you can make one way trips. The car can be left at any designated spot in the business area, or any free on street legal in the residential area – including designated residential parking spaces. The special Smart cars are the only type available, but have advanced telematics so that they can be tracked and their location will be available to users when you have finished with it, and to the office to let them know when it needs attention. For that reason the “operating area” in the map appears to be very restrictive: the shore of the inlet to the north, south as far as 41st east to Nanaimo Street west to Dunbar. In fact you can take the car away from that – for instance for a trip to Stanley Park or UBC, you just cannot end the rental until you return to the operating area.
If you are not familiar with residential parking permit areas the City of Vancouver has a set of pdf maps showing the areas concerned.
I spoke to Bernice Paul the Marketing Director of Modo – the car co-op. She said that they feel that CAR2GO does not compete directly with them but will be seen as “competition for taxis”. They later released their own statement which says (in part)
Modo The Car Co-op, Metro Vancouver’s premier and only local car sharing organization, is curious about how this method of transportation will work.
“CAR2GO here in Vancouver is the first time we’ve seen a one-way service launch in a city with a combination of established car sharing, taxis, metered parking, and plans for bike sharing.” notes Tanya Paz, Modo’s Business Development Director. “We’re interested to learn if Car2Go will actually help reduce the number of individually owned cars on the road.”
Modo has been in operation since 1997 and as a founding member of the international Car Sharing Association, adheres to its Code of Ethics. As a transit-oriented car co-op, Modo prioritizes walking, cycling and public transit before the use of cars for transport.
Han Tjan, the Head of Corporate Communications for Daimler in North America opened the proceedings with the usual welcomes. He said that the area selected in Vancouver is walkable, bikeable and transit served [just like the city of Ulm where the program was launched and the city of Amsterdam where there will be 300 electric Smart cars]. Based on its success in Germany, Vancouver is the first city in Canada to have Car2GO
CAR2GO is perfectly suited for Vancouver. Daimler will open a fuel cell production facility in Vancouver [eventually the current internal combustion cars will be supplemented and probably replaced by electric cars]. These are the right answers in urban areas. The idea is innovative and successful. The idea came up in 2007 in Ulm where the first pilot phase of 50 cars was used by Daimler employees, who are the most demanding customers. Together with Austin there are now 35,000 regular members in the two cities.
Nicholas Cole CEO of Car2Go Canada
Vancouver is not just the first Canadian market, the company will be headquartered here and is proud to call Vancouver home. Car sharing is already working here. They will be opening with 225 low emission vehicles on June 18. At present there is no registration fee on-line at www.car2govancouver.com or at the office 45 Water Street in Gastown.
The Concept is based on the Smart Car that has been specifically designed for car sharing with a solar panel on the roof. It was sourced through the local Mercedes-Benz Canada retailers. It offers another easy and affordable option for the dense urban area: it is designed for the city and enhances bus and walk trips. It is part of the solution: an on demand alternative to vehicle ownership. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and may be used spontaneously or reserved 24 hours in advance.
Renting is a 6 step process –
- find a car using the smart phone app or on the web:
- use your membership card to gain access using the reader stuck to the windshield – see my photo above
- enter PIN and answer two questions about the state of the vehicle:
- you may the use the key provided to start the car; there is no need to book the usage period. There is a discount for daily use, and no requirement to return the car – you can park it and hold on to the key if you want to. And users can always check their account on-line.
- at the end of the rental you use the telematics system to say that you are finished
- put the key back into the console – the car is locked using the membership card again
He said that CAR2GO is part of the new movement to collaborative consumption – share and rent to reduce waste. He acknowledged support from City of Vancouver and said that last year’s test period showed that it would be a good fit here.
There is a mandatory $2 fee for the special ICBC car sharing insurance but that they will donate that $2 fee for next 12 months to Canuck Place. They are also waiving the $35 membership fee for an introductory period (see below).
said that the Salt Building was the “athletes living room” [It is to become a restaurant and this is the last event that will be allowed to used the building in its present form.] The city has the goal of becoming the greenest city and a full range of transportation options is essential to that. He also insists on maintaining the city’s livability. People in the city already walk, cycle and take transit in record numbers and were also early adopters of car sharing. There is a compelling environmental case in terms of the overall ecological footprint of car sharing. He said he was also excited to see that the company is to have its Canadian headquarters here, which fits with Vancouver’s desire to be at the centre of the global green economy.
In answer to my question about the role of the telematics – it knows when it leaves the operating area – Mr Cole said that you are free to leave that area but you have to bring it back to end the rental period.
Bernice Paul asked if they had any information on the reduction in car use in the other cities. Nicholas Cole said that they were “just starting to collect that data and will do that going forward.”
He also said that “after we get operating we will look at the number of cars and the size of the operating area”.
Christopher Gaze – Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach one of the users in last year’s trial here said “We had thought of getting another car. We now won’t.” In an interview with me later he clarified that: his household has no intention of giving up their Jag, but they would not need a second car now. He currently commutes from his home in Kits to the Bard on his bicycle. Mostly.
I also spoke to Juliane Muehling, the Corporate Communications Manager for CAR2GO. She told me that Austin, Texas was quite different to Ulm – and Vancouver – but they were very keen to get the first American operation there, mainly due to the inadequacies of their transit system. They have had no problem with vandalism – as happens with the Velib bike share system in Paris. The cars stay in communication which means that they get fuel and servicing at need. There is a fuelling card in the car: users may use to refill the tank – and if they do so get some free minutes on their rental. They intend to be a small company and use local vendors and services – for example Bashir Auto is doing the cleaning. The City concession on allowing parking in residential zones is common to all car shares not just CAR2GO.
I did take the car on a short test drive and found the process to be easy. There are two videos on the web site if you feel you need more teaching. I was pleased to note that the radio is tuned to CBC Radio 2 by default – though that could change in response to user demands. The telematics system includes a hands free cell phone.
You might also be interested to know that the system was developed with (W)right ON Communications wave front services: they are a federal government funded “wireless accelerator”, a non-profit designed to promote technology.
UPDATE November 2, 2011
I have already registered myself, and have now used the cars several times
If you decide to do so enter the promo code SUSTAINABLE and you will get free registration and 30 free minutes of drive time.
The following links are to pdf files provided by Daimler/CAR2GO