Daimler subsidiary Car2Go is expanding its car-sharing business to San Diego, but it's taking the green concept one step further by making its vehicle fleet all-electric.
Car2go currently operates in Austin, Texas with a fleet of 300 two-seater gas-powered Smart ForTwos, which are produced by parent company Daimler. Members can rent the vehicles by the day, hour, or minute, and unlike ZipCar, they don't have to specify a time by which they will return the vehicles. To rent a car, participants locate an available vehicle using the Web site or mobile app. When they're finished using the car, they can drop off vehicles anywhere in any legal public parking space within the operating area and make the vehicle available for another member to use.
When Car2Go launches in San Diego at the end of 2011, the system will work pretty much the same. The only difference is that instead of getting 35 mpg, the electric Smart cars will have an electric range of about 84 miles per charge.
That may not seem like a lot of flexibility, but Car2Go isn't that worried. In its experience, fleet vehicles in urban areas rarely travel more than 6 miles in a day. Charging station provider ECOtality is in the process of installing 1,000 Blink public EV charging stations throughout San Diego, which will provide places to recharge low batteries. The electric Smart ForTwo is equipped with a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be recharged from 20 to 80 percent capacity in three and a half hours. An empty battery can be fully recharged in eight hours, and will probably be done overnight.
By going all-electric, Car2Go is perfecting the car-sharing model. The theory behind car sharing is that a person who doesn't own a car will drive less, causing less traffic and less pollution. But if you're renting a car, you're still producing carbon, just not as often. Taking gas out of the equation will reduce pollution and also help transition drivers away from the pump and into more environmentally sensitive, albeit less convenient vehicles. And in the mean time, it'll help make use of all those electric car-charging stations until more EVs hit the market.