The buzz about Car2Go coming to Seattle has been a mix of excitement and skepticism. Car2Go has already been successful in 17 cities in the U.S. and Europe before their December launch in Seattle. But Seattle already has ZipCar, various car rental agencies and friends who will loan out their cars…do we really need another car share alternative? Even if the Car2Go fleet is made up of 330 fun environment-friendly smart fortwos?
Well, yes, in the weeks since Car2Go’s debut, its been shown that there very well could be a place for another car-sharing company.
Here’s the Car2Go idea: sign up for a membership (a $35 fee is being waived right now if you register online with code “SOUND” or come to their launch party on Jan. 12. You’ll also get a free 30 minutes of driving time. After a few days, you’ll receive a shiny plastic card in the mail.
Once you have your card, it’s simple. Walk up to a parked Car2Go, tap the card on the card reader on the windshield, and your rental has begun. Hop in, drive around the city, and then park the car wherever you end up. You can then just leave the car there and end your time, or “stopover,” which means you take the key with you, continue to pay by the minute, and then the car is waiting for you when you’re ready to continue your adventure.
It might sound like a lot of trust and reliance on the honesty of strangers, but Car2Go has pretty complex technology in place that goes way beyond the honor system. Each car is connected to their network, and there’s an iPhone app to help you find a car near you or to reserve a car 15 minutes in advance.
There are rules, of course. Most are just common sense such as: leave the car clean and nice and park it legally and within the allowed home area. You’ll pay 38¢ plus tax per minute, or $13.99 per hour, or $72.99 per day, plus extra if you drive more than 150 miles. Parking, gas, and insurance are free. Yes, you can even park in a metered zone and not have to worry about filling the meter.
Once you add up these costs, 38¢ per minute starts to feel like a very reasonable alternative, especially if you’ve chosen to not own a car.
The one downside of Car2Go is the limited availability all over Seattle. There are no Car2Go parked in South Seattle, West Seattle, or North of 130th in North Seattle. Huge chunks of Seattle are closed off to a car-sharing program that would likely be very welcome to residents. It’s unclear why this decision has been made by Car2Go, but this neighborhood exclusivity has started the company off on the wrong foot with many Seattleites as seen on their Facebook page.
When asked by email, Car2Go responded: “The home area is an initial starting point for our new city. We are always looking for feedback and suggestions from our members and community to see how we can improve our services. It is possible for the home area to expand in the future, once we know what is a better fit for our members.”
Environmentally, Car2Go gas a good chance to be a winner. When walking isn’t an option, and the bus doesn’t run in the direction you need to go, using a car-sharing program like Car2Go is an ecological alternative for the green transportation fan.
The smart cars are a good choice for the planet according to the manufacturer, “the smart fortwo is up to 85% recyclable, and is certified as a SmartWay vehicle for its low air pollutant and greenhouse gas scores by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The smart fortwo leaves a small carbon footprint on the American landscape.” Each smart car also has had a tree planted in its honor by the manufacturer, Daimler, through American Forests.
Car2Go is inviting the public to a launch party on Jan. 12, where there will be test drives, chances to sign up for memberships, ask questions, and get some free snacks and Car2Go swag.