Vancouver has a fairly long history of car sharing. Since 1997, there has been some form of the service operating in the Lower Mainland and this summer marks the arrival of a new player on the roads. Daimler, the good people who brought you such automotive gems as the Mercedes SLS, have chosen Vancouver as the first Canadian city to benefit from their answer to the future of car sharing, Car2Go.
Basically, the idea behind car sharing is; rather than owning a car, (and the associated costs of maintaining said car) a group or individual would sign up with a service and enjoy the use of a professionally maintained fleet of vehicles without the hassles of ownership. This means not having to deal with the inevitable depreciation, squeaks, rattles, vandalism, rising gas prices, car washing, etc etc etc. In turn this equals out to less stress for the user and since many people share the cars, fewer actual cars on the road, resulting in fewer GHG emissions, resulting in cleaner air and the innumerable benefits associated with a healthy planet.
Of course, some car sharing services are wrought with issues. Having to reserve a car days in advance doesn’t help with emergencies. Nor is it convenient to have to pick up and drop off a vehicle at a specific location. ‘Specially in a rain soaked city like ours. Not so with Car2go! By adopting an “On Demand” usage model, Daimler has implemented a system that is easier to get into, more convenient and ultimately cheaper than their competitors. The heart of Car2go is the car itself. The first of its kind, designed from the ground up for the purpose of car sharing, the modified Smart is several inches longer than its privately owned brethren and incorporates some novel features to help save time and energy.
With a 100 watt, high efficiency solar panel fully integrated into the roof, Car2Go’s snappy looking Smart can run all the gadgetry necessary to ensure a pleasant car sharing experience. From RFID enabled access to the custom designed telematics system, it also runs the A/C on super hot days so Car2Go drivers don’t have to get into an oven.
Naturally, a large touchscreen dominates the center console and controls pretty much every function of the car. Entering the 4 digit access code will release the ignition key and then it’s off to the races. GPS lets the driver know where they are and there’s even an On Star style nanny service available at the touch of the button in case of emergency or if you just need someone with whom to talk about your feelings . The instrument cluster is simple with all vitals easily readable at a glance.
While the car may be the heart of the Car2Go service, the online component is definitely the brains. Registered drivers can access the Car2Go location and reservation system through a web browser or smartphone app to locate the car closest to them and reserve it up to 24 hours in advance. And drivers can also walk up to any Car2Go and if it hasn’t been reserved, drive away. A storefront is also located if new drivers wish to eschew the online process and have a friendly face help them with getting started or reserving a car. Yes, Car2Go lets drivers reserve by phone as well, but who actually talks on their phones anymore? With rental time being billed by-the-minute at a rate of $0.35, $12.99 per hour or $65.00 per day, how much a driver pays is determined strictly by usage.
An added bonus of Car2Go is the ability to park pretty much anywhere in Vancouver. Even those NIMBY, “permit only parking” neighborhoods. (I’m looking at you, Kits. And you too, West End) And because there’s no central parking spot per se, a driver can get into a car in one end of the 47 sq kilometer Car2Go drop off and pick up zone and leave it behind in another. Also,the city has appropriated a number of parking spaces and set them aside specifically for the little white and blue car. While parking streetside in most areas is free, drivers will be on the hook for any metered spaces, parkades and parking tickets. And no speeding.
But wait! There’s more. From now until May 29th, Car2Go is waiving the one time only $35.00 registration fee and donating the $2.00 annual membership fee to the Canuck Place Children’s hospice over the next 12 months. Use Promo Code VAN when registering online. Or just pop in to the Gastown storefront and get signed up. But wait! There’s even more than that! Car2Go includes a pre-paid gas card in case drivers need to refuel and the time spent refueling is credited to the driver’s account in the form of free minutes. Sounds like a great way to drive on the cheap. Take that, Zipcar! and Take that, Modo!
So, the question emerges; Does someone living in Vancouver “really” need to own a car? With working from home or the pretentious hipster cafe down the street becoming the norm for many people, it’s less and less likely they do. But if the rain is coming down as it tends to do out here and the idea of hustling 4 bags of groceries 20 blocks soaking wet doesn’t appeal, perhaps a little Smart Car2Go will.