Sunday, April 12, 2009

Austin to "Test Drive" New Car Sharing Program This Fall

The City of Austin has been chosen as a city in which German car-making company, Daimler, can test its car-sharing program. Car2go is Daimler’s car-sharing program in which users collectively share a certain amount of cars and are charged use per minute, hour, or day. This car-sharing pilot is schedule to begin this October and will run for 6 months, in which city employees will have access to 200 of Daimler’s Smart Fortwo cars. During this trail period, Daimler will cover all costs, which include fuel, maintenance, and insurance.

Car2go has had success in Ulm, Germany, where the program originated. One of the components that make this program so unique is the size of the car. The size lends itself in two ways. For one, these two-seater cars are great for metropolitan areas, as they save on space. In fact, two of these cars are equivalent to the length of one regular car. Secondly, the size of the car makes it a light-weight car, where it can get up to 33 miles in the city and 41 miles on the highway, reducing costs on fuel. Users in Ulm are charged 19 euro cents per minute, 9.90 euros per hour, and 49 uros per day. Rates include taxes, insurance, mileage, and fuel. The other component that adds to car2go’s uniqueness is how easy it is to use the program. Consumers are required to simply register once for free, in which they will have access to all cars by either walking up to an available car or reserving one online or over the phone. A chip is placed on a person’s license, which is used to unlock the car doors and then the user enters a personal PIN to turn the car on. Users can return the car in a designated smart car parking spot and return it to its original location. Consumers were surveyed and they were happy with the costs and thought the system was easy to use.

Though the article in the Austin American Statesmen or on the Daimler website do not indicate how implementation of the car2go program will help save on costs, I decided to a simple analysis on the costs of a regular, regular car to a Smart Fortwo car. A car typically holds and average of 16.5 gallons of gas per tank, and at Austin’s current average gas rate of $1.96 per gallon, it costs roughly $32.34 to fill a tank. On the contrary, a Smart Fortwo car holds approximately 8.67 gallons, which will cost about $16.99 to fill up a tank on a Smart Fortwo car. This means that filling up on a tank of gas of one Smart Fortwo car will save Austin $15.35 on fuel, compared to a mid-size car. If Austin keeps all 200 Smart Fortwo cars after test trial, the City of Austin can save over $3,000 on fuel by using a Smart Fortwo car versus the traditional mid-size cars.

The Car2go program will also benefit the environmental. In 2007, small to large-size cars in the U.S. were found to emit between 8 to 9 tons of CO2 per year. Smart Fortwo cars emit 5.1 tons of annual CO2.


clarita said...

This project seems very interesting. It looks like a lot like all the bicycles in 'free-service' in a lot of European cities where you can easily take a bike at one point and return it to another. There are generally several points in the city where the bicycles are, you can take one by using your credit card for 1 euro for half an hour in Paris for example. Then you retourn the bike to another point. This system is called 'Velib' in Paris.

This projet is going even further than the project of the bicycles by the renting of small cars in order to limit pollution because of the size of the car and should also save money as lima charlie mentionned it. That seems to me a good idea for a US city as people generally use big vehicules which pollute a lot.

rob goates said...

I have been interested in these smart cars for a while now. Its great that a program like this can offer transportation to people and also promote a more eco-friendly car as well. The average car gets about 17 mpg. So a car that gets 33 mpg can save people alot of money and emit alot less CO2 per year. The smart car also received great crash test ratings. However, this car should only be used by people that predominantly live or drive in the city because the car is not as safe at higher speeds. The crash tests were performed at 40 mph, therefore the car cannot be considered safer than bigger SUVs when on the highway. All in all, I think this plan is genius. It will get people used to this car and its usefulness in an urban setting. People will either continue to rent the smart car or they will wind up purchasing one for themselves.