By Asha Kreiling
Every day, I see at least one little white and blue car marked “car2go” either parked on the street or driving around San Diego. I had heard a thing or two about the car-sharing program, but I wanted to know more.
What is it? Car2go is a car-sharing service that started in Germany in 2008, and has spread to various cities in Europe and North America including Vienna, Vancouver, Portland, and Washington, D.C. In November, 2011, car2go came to San Diego. Unlike the aforementioned cities, however, the San Diego car2go fleet is fully electric. San Diego is the first city in North America to launch a 100% electric car-sharing program, and Amsterdam became the first in Europe soon after. The San Diego car2go program includes 300 Smart Fortwo electric-drive vehicles, which means they are driven by an electric motor and powered by rechargeable high-efficiency lithium-ion batteries. It also means no engine noise and no tail pipe emissions!
So, how does car2go work? Once you pay a sign-up fee of $35, you can become a member of the program, so long as your driving record is in good standing and you aren’t a “new” driver. From there, you have access to the hundreds of cars distributed all over San Diego. Using the Car Finder on the car2go website, members can locate the nearest car, can reserve a car for a certain time, or can use one “on-demand.”
The cars can be used for as long you wish and don’t need to be returned at a certain time or at a specific place. Once finished using the vehicle, members can return it to any authorized location within the San Diego operating area. Car2go has designated parking spots that include curbside parking spaces. And, parking is always free! Cars can be parked in parking meter locations and at specially car2go marked areas at no cost.
What you do pay for is the time that you use the car. Every minute costs $0.35; an hour costs $12.99; and a full day costs $65.99. Considering that re-charging, parking, insurance, maintenance, cleaning, GPS navigation, and roadside assistance are all included, the price is quite reasonable.
The innovative program has been quite popular, too. In the first 100 days in San Diego, over 25,000 trips were taken by car2go’s 6,000 members. Most trips last between 15 and 30 minutes, and the average distance ranges between 5 and 10 miles.
Over a thousand charging stations have been installed in San Diego for the car2go program, which can be easily located with the cars’ GPS systems. Recharging isn’t required from members and is often unnecessary since most trips are less than 10 miles.
The car2go service is ideal for people who don’t own a car or don’t want to pay for the associated costs with vehicle ownership: insurance, repairs, and increasingly expensive gas, etc. Their cost is competitive with cabs and they may be more convenient than relying on the San Diego bus system.
More generally, though, car2go is a ground-breaking program helping to make San Diego a more sustainable place. The large fleet of electric vehicles serves to substantially reduce car pollution and congestion throughout San Diego, especially in dense urban areas.
They’re only 8.8 feet long. They have room for 2, and quite possibly can take you where you need to go. The next time you see a car2go parked in San Diego, you might just want to try it for yourself.