Editor’s Note: John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. Excerpts of this article will appear in his upcoming book – Save Gas, Save the Planet.
Car sharing programs are popping up all over the place. Introduced first in Europe, car sharing is now growing in the United States with over 200 car share programs operating in over 600 cities.
If you’re not familiar with car sharing, these programs allow two or more people to need only one car through a well-organized sharing service. Each shared vehicle results in 6 to 23 cars not being owned and evidence shows that once someone joins a car share program, they cut their vehicle miles traveled up to 80 percent.
Zipcar is the current US leader in car sharing, boasting over 260,000 members — individuals who live car-free in a city, couples who share one car, university students and staff, and corporate fleet and travel managers.
How does Zipcar do it? After a simple enrollment members are issued a Zipcard. Members can then reserve a car online or over the phone. At the appropriate time, they find their designated car, typically in one of many lots in a city. The Zipcard is then used to unlock and drive the vehicle. At the end of the trip, the driver returns the car to a reserved parking space. A variety of vehicles are available in their program from hybrids to SUVs.
Hertz, as the largest international rental car company, has entered the car sharing market by launching the Connect by Hertz car sharing club, with neighborhood parking in London, New York City and Paris. Hertz plans to expand into additional cities, as well as universities, in 2009. As Hertz expands, it can leverage its established presence in 8,100 locations in 144 countries worldwide.
Membership in Connect by Hertz includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Connect by Hertz members enjoy a paperless program where they can reserve, drive and return vehicles all on their own, via the internet or phone.
“Connect by Hertz supports Hertz’s diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs,” commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and CEO of The Hertz Corporation. “In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz’s established infrastructure, we’re the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program.”
The showcase car of the Connect by Hertz fleet in the United States is the Toyota Prius.
To unlock and engage the Hertz vehicle, members simply swipe their membership card, the Connect card, over the car’s radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader — similar to Zipcar. In car, a hands-free audio kit connects members to a Member Care Center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental. The in-car technology also enables Connect by Hertz to ‘communicate’ with the vehicle enabling representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. The technologically savvy cars are also equipped with iPod connectivity and, in the US, NeverLost® in-car navigation systems and EZ Pass transponders.