Car-Share Companies Plug In
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.
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.