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Zipcar and Flexcar to Merge

31 October 2007

Car-sharing providers Zipcar and Flexcar will merge. The combined company will operate under the Zipcar brand and be headquartered in Cambridge, MA, led by Zipcar Chairman and CEO, Scott Griffith.

Zipcar and Flexcar currently operate car sharing programs, providing members with on-demand access to a diverse fleet of vehicles located throughout major metropolitan areas. To use the service, members reserve a vehicle online or via a mobile device, use a smartcard to open the doors, take their trip, and then return the car at the end of the reservation. An hourly or daily fee covers gas, insurance, maintenance, parking and 24-7 emergency service.

The merger comes at a time when car sharing is increasingly acknowledged as a smart urban lifestyle choice and transportation alternative. With growing competition within the industry, and more than 30 independent car sharing companies operating in the US alone, the combined Zipcar will have a stronger base from which to compete—particularly against leading car rental firms’ product introductions targeted at the car-sharing industry.

Zipcar currently operates in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and London while Flexcar operates in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington DC Both companies provide car sharing on college campuses where traffic congestion and limited parking are frequent challenges.

Under the combined organization, members will access the vehicles through Zipcar’s Z3D technology. The proprietary platform fully connects the information flow between vehicles, members and Zipcar.com. Zipcar membership will enable the self-service reservation of any vehicle in any city in the combined Zipcar, Flexcar network simply by using the Zipcar.com website or mobile interface.

All members will be covered under an insurance plan with limits of $300,000 per accident.

National studies show that each shared car can replace up to 20 privately owned vehicles. Car sharing members report driving significantly less and are more likely to walk, bike, and use public transportation. Members also report savings of $500 or greater per month compared to the average cost of owning and operating a car in the city, and businesses have saved thousands of dollars by eliminating company fleets or augmenting their transportation offerings with car sharing programs.

October 31, 2007 in Car Sharing | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

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Car sharing sounds great. I've never used it, but I think it can really bolster electric vehicle adoption. If the fear of owning a BEV is insufficient range, just borrowing one of these cars for your longer trips. Zipcar can also have a diverse fleet of BEV's and HEV's, since people know the exact type of trip they are borrowing the car for before they leave. If it's a short trip, BEV is fine. If it's longer, go with the HEV. Either way, Zipcar is much more likely to get its return on investment with the extra battery cost, because the capacity factor of each vehicle is so much higher, i.e. a lot more miles per year. From a battery perspective, cycle life becomes more important than calendar life.

In other words, almost nothing will change. I couldn't use Flexcar to commute to Seattle from a late night temp job, that would left me standed without prompt bus service in Bellevue. I've used Flexcar only once since I joined so, now I will use Zipcar . . . I don't know . . . when it makes sense to reserve it?!

If only you can use these so-called "car sharing" services to drive from designated spot to designated spot without having to take the car back to it's previous designated parking spot. Then, it would make sense to use. Otherwise, I'm STILL saving to buy a car.

Not really Ben. Think of car sharing as a nontraditional form of car rental. Instead of going to a brick & mortar business to rent a car, you make a reservation buy calling a number or going to a website. Instead of picking up and returning your car to the brick & mortar business, you pick up and return your car at a designated parking spot. Some good points? You don't have to pay for gas, you can use a gas card. That's it! That's why Washington State decided to hit Flexcar with the car rental tax. Given this though, I like my experience with Flexcar, though I clear wish it was more.

I love this trend. Car sharing subverts the dominant, Wild West, every driver/car owner for himself paradigm and promotes the view that ground transportation is a shared utility. The more people come to view cars as utilitarian parts of a transportation system, the more rational our attitudes towards cars will become, IMHO.

I don't know Nick. Owning a car simply means freedom. Freedom to go anywhere at anytime to anyplace. As for the "Global Warming/Fuel Emission/Traffic Congestion" issues, that's best left to manufacturers and decision makers. And both the technology and demand is there to make cars rightous with the environment. There's no reason why we can't have it both ways.

theres no one fits all system - for me the flex car system and a few taxi rides would probably work fine. I've got a car now but my miles are reducing and I expect I'm going to size down to this system rather than buy another car in the future.

Perhaps the limiting factor with car sharing at this point is infrastructure. At a critical mass, every community could have a share car lot within easy access. There is so much embedded carbon in a car, something like 1/3 as much as driving 100K miles (but don't quote me on that). Americans will learn to adjust to the "lack of freedom" associated with not having their own car. They simply won't have a choice.

Economies of scale and network effects should help this industry, so consolidation sounds good.

Ben--

Seems to me we have an extremely wasteful, expensive and inefficient transportation system. Cars may 'mean freedom', but what tradeoffs have we made for this 'freedom'? How much of our wealth goes into owning cars and trucks and into building and maintaining the infrastructure they need?

Nick-

I completely agree with you. The key metric here is ability to carry my body and my stuff from point A to point B while limiting cost of time/ money/ stress. People have it ingrained in themselves that this means driving, where in most cases mass transit is/could be better. If you remove the car you own from the picture, you're much more likely to make that decision logically and on a case-by-case basis. For the places that you need to go that can't be easily reached by mass transit (e.g. camping), you can get the exact tool you need for that people/stuff hauling service (gasp, an SUV).

I find that if you need the car for more than a couple hours you are better off using a traditional rental for a full day.

I bike and use transit for daily mobility, and actually share a car for trips to the store. If I am going any further, I just rent. And with my rental company, they have my payment and location in my web profile, I can rent in like 2 clicks.

Roz, that's only if you need the car over the weekend. In Seattle, I've found that daily rentals with Flexcar are competitive with Enterprise Rent-a-Car...after the totals are tallied. With Enterprise, there are 3 kinds of mandatory insurance added on + I have to pay for gas. Enterprise (and other car rental agencies) have great weekend rates, but Flexcar has some weekend deals now too.

It's a toss up sometimes, but i must admit I prefer the time savings and flexibility with Flexcar. I can reserve online in under 60 seconds and go to the car at the location of my choice, rather than having to go to a rental agency and spend 30-45mins to wait, fill out paperwork and make it through all the formalities before they give me the keys.

True Seque. You can't beat that. However, I found that I couldn't use Flexcar for certain commuting senarios (Though I would reserve one to "raid" WalMart in a heartbeat!)Plus while I live in Seattle, I work in Federal Way, roughly 17 miles south. This means I must take 3 bus routes (The 71/71/73 & 194 and 181)then if the third isn't readily available, then I take a 8-12 minute walk . . . across an busy overpass over I-5 on 320th!

please put me on your mailing list

In addition to zero emissions, the Tesla Roadster stands out for its lightning quickness speed (top speed 200 km/ h, 0- 100 km in under 4 seconds) and improved autonomy (300 kms.) versus earlier electric cars.

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