Car-Share Companies Plug In

ZipCar Electric Vehicle

The Ev’ie, an electric conversion of the Citroën C1.

Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing service, announced yesterday that it will bring an all-electric vehicle “pod” to central London. Initially offering just two vehicles—a Citroen c1 converted into an all-electric car, and a Toyota Prius converted to a plug-in hybrid—the pod is part of a pilot program testing the durability and profitability of plug-in cars in car-share fleets.

In February, Zipcar launched a more wide-reaching test in San Francisco that deploys converted Toyota Prius plug-ins at pods throughout the Bay Area. Since then, Zipcar reports that 75 percent of the miles logged on those vehicles have been battery-powered. With 85 percent of customers telling the company that they would be interested in driving plug-ins, more electric pods could be in the company’s future.

In 2003, Zipcar became the first car-sharing service to offer hybrid cars, and six years later, there are more than 1,000 hybrids in the company’s fleet. The company hopes to become profitable in the coming months, paving the way for a potential IPO in 2010 and more capital to potentially expand its electric fleet and network of charging stations. Zipcar says that 95 percent of its cars travel less than 25 miles in a trip, making plug-in vehicles a logical and attractive addition to its business.

AltCar Electrovaya Maya 300

AltCar’s Electrovaya Maya 300

Two weeks ago, AltCar, a car-sharing project founded by the Maryland Science Center, began offering the Maya 300, a low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) for loan in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor district. The program’s structure is similar to Zipcar but on a smaller scale—there is currently only one vehicle hub, located outside of the museum itself, though the company says additional cars and locations will be added in the future.

AltCar, part car-sharing project and part public exhibition about future auto technologies, received $500,000 in funding from ExxonMobil, which also has a stake in Electrovaya, the battery-maker (and now carmaker) responsible for the Maya 300. The car has a top speed of 25 mph. the Maya 300 fully charges in six to eight hours and claims a range of 60-120 miles.

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  • Lost Prius to wife

    The Bay Area info is indictive of what I suspected was possible. Toyota Prius plug-ins producing 75 percent battery-powered miles. And 85 percent of the customers interested in driving plug-ins. What we are seeing is probably the way of the future if we can get it past the government regulations. Also, we need car manufactures to produce more hybrids and EVs.

  • Samie

    Agree Lost Prius to wife

    But annoying government regulation may actually mean what-ever lobbying industries for corn/ethanol/E85, biofuels, & CNG, that take away government funding for incentives to grow the EV’s/plug-in hybrid markets. I would be the first to say EV’s & plug-ins are not perfect & much improvement to solar, wind, & title is needed but I think negative regulation is more about annoying short-term interest groups that want to make a quick buck & take tax dollars away w/ them.

    I wonder what the ExxonMobil’s of the world are doing investing in small EV companies like AltCar? Not sure if they want to control the rate of progress in the EV/battery (technology) market or do they realize that they need to expand into other forms of energy to stay viable in the long-run (meaning they actually compete & fund advancements fully). Right now I suspect they would love to stretch out the supply of oil to reduce price spikes & have better control over their products w/ less incentive to switch to EV’s. That is why to me they love vehicles like the Prius but maybe at this point they are trying to deal w/ Volt & Plug-in type vehicles. The Big Oil companies can compete in the battery or renewable energy markets but to my point I hope the Federal Government does not lay down & let them control patients/production of batteries & give them huge subsides w/ tax breaks if they decide to take the control approach. Regulation can be good as long as Federal Government actually creates incentives that don’t reward monopolistic self-serving companies that do little to genuinely advance technologies.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Nissan may soon be offering an affordable EV. See: