car2go at the beach

Over 6000 San Diegan's driving electric Smart ForTwo's in car2go service

Launched in November 2011, the San Diego car2go service boasts 6000 members (and growing) after 100 days of service, in the only all-electric car sharing service in America.

In November 2011, Daimler's car2go car sharing service launched in San Diego, and in its first 100 days of operation has signed up over 6,000 people. The San Diego branch of car2go is America's first all-electric car sharing service, utilizing 300 electric Smart ForTwo's.

"For the first time in the history of North America, an entire city has been given access to a large network of electric vehicles that they can share, collaboratively," said Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go North America LLC. "As thousands of residents of San Diego embrace car2go and the electric vehicle driving movement, they are setting an outstanding example in emissions-free urban mobility for the rest of the world."

According to car2go, the service launched with 500 trips per week and with rising membership levels this number has increased to 3,500 trips per week. The company finds the average trip is 15-30 minutes in length, and covers a distance of 5-10 miles.

Membership requires a one-time fee of $35 and is contingent on approved for membership. Rates are $0.35 per minute, up to $12.99 maximum per hour, or $65.99 maximum per day. Using the system requires five easy steps. First find a car using the car2go website or a smartphone application. Next, touch the membership card to a reader behind the windshield to unlock the car. Once inside the car enter a PIN number on the touch screen display. The car should then unlock, and you can drive away. When done with the car, park it in a valid parking space, and walk away. The car2go cars are available within a service area, and must be returned to that service area when you're done with the car. The car2go members aren't required to recharge the electric Smart ForTwo's, but are encouraged to do so by parking at one of the charging stations in downtown San Diego.

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The service area is centered in the higher population density areas of San Diego, downtown and around the airport. One imagines the typical car2go member to either be a resident in that area who wants to forgo car ownership, or else a suburban resident who commutes downtown via bus or train and desires a vehicle for errands downtown during the day.

At CES this year Daimler's Chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, discussed Daimler's vision for future mobility needs, and described the company's car2go service as "Freedom of Access". Current trends in rising population are making urban areas more and more crowded. A symptom of crowding in urban areas are the congestion fees some cities have instituted around the world to limit car use in urban cores. The issues are traffic congestion, and parking congestion. Car sharing services are an interesting solution to parking congestion, because members of car sharing services have the "freedom to access" the advantages of car ownership, without having the burdens, such as the struggle to find parking, or the several hassles of car ownership like maintenance, insurance, or registration.

The car2go service is currently operating in nine cities: Austin, Texas; Vancouver, British Columbia; San Diego, California; Ulm, Germany; Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Vienna, Austria; Lyon, France; and Dusseldorf, Germany. This month the service is launching in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon. In April 2012 the service will launch in Berlin, Germany.

The car2go service in all other cities, besides San Diego, use regular gasoline driven Smart ForTwo's. It is only San Diego which enjoys having the electric Smart ForTwo's. Nicholas Cole is quoted saying "At a time when the cost of fuel is reaching record-high prices, San Diegans are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on fuel and for more cost-efficient modes of transportation; and car2go is a very logical choice for them."