Timed almost perfectly to avoid the swarms of tourists that will descend upon the city for the weeklong SXSW, Daimler's car-sharing program Car2Go will expand its service area and add more cars to its fleet in downtown Austin.
Car2Go is a lot like ZipCar with the difference that its rental fleet consists entirely of Smart ForTwos that you can rent by the minute. Another differentiating perk is that you don't have to return vehicles to the same location where you picked them up--you can drop off a rental in any valid and publicly accessible parking space. But starting at midnight on Friday, March 18, service will go down and all cars will be pulled from the road until 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, while the company upgrades its vehicle fleet and expands the operating area.
Since it started in November 2009, Car2Go has acquired 15,000 members that collectively have booked more than 150,000 rentals with an average of 4,000 rentals per week. The fleet of 200 Smart cars has logged more than 500,000 miles. To meet increasing demand, the car-sharing program will increase its fleet to 300 vehicles. And although the company is getting bigger, the cars won't. Car2Go is sticking with the two-seater vehicle formula, but will switch to custom Smart ForTwos outfitted with the company's rental software installed on the in-dash navigation system. They will also feature 100-watt solar roofs that keep the cars ventilated and cool when parked, and power onboard electronics when in use.
Although SXSW attendees won't be able to enjoy the new rides, they're welcome to use the existing vehicles in the current operating area. Membership is $35 to join, and 200 vehicles will be available during most of SXSW for $12.99 per hour plus tax, including gas and insurance.