Car2Go: first impressions

car2go

A carload of new carsharing options has arrived or will soon arrive in Minneapolis.  Homegrown HourCar is expanding to around 50 80 cars in on-street and parking lot locations, and ZipCar, having lived only at the University for years is expanding across the City.  Companies that you would usually associate with long-term car rentals are getting in the game – both Enterprise and Hertz have car sharing plans for Minneapolis.  According to MPR, by 2014 there will be over 400 vehicles available to car-sharing customers.

The bulk of these will be in the fleet of Car2Go, which operates on a different business model than the rest, offerring “point to point” service.  Walk to a car anywhere in Minneapolis, drive where you want to go, then park it at any curb space in Minneapolis (expect rush hour zones).  Other companies require that you return their cars to a specified location at a specified time.  The trade-off is that their rates are generally cheaper.

I decided to become a member a few weeks back, so I thought I’d give some first impressions.

car2go interior

Interior: both hands were on the wheel, I swear

It is convenient. I’ve only taken three trips, two originating downtown and one originating in south Minneapolis, but cars have always been readily available.  I consulted my smart phone for the nearest car via an app, walked a few blocks (or feet in the case of one trip), and was on my way.  All the cars I’ve used were brand new and clean.

It might be more expensive. Competitors like HourCar charge quite a bit less per hour, but also charge a monthly membership fee.  One four mile trip I took with Car2Go that took 16 minutes cost $7 with tax (including 4 minutes of unexplained parking time).  If you use it sparingly, it may be close.  You’ll probably end up paying more because they’re everywhere and you find yourself lured by the convenience.

The cars are small, but that’s ok. A 6’3″ individual like me fits comfortably, but don’t expect to haul anything more than groceries and a passenger.  But, that’s kind of not the point of this service.  These are cars as appliances – maximum efficiency and simplicity.  The controls are all dead-simple and limited (although there is standard navigation), the transmission leaves much to be desired, but the turning radius is to die for.  People also might start to get creative with parking when they realize how short these cars are.

It’s a preview of autonomous vehicles.  Use your smart phone to summon/reserve it.  Leave it anywhere.  Share it with the masses.  Rent the appropriate vehicle for the appropriate journey or load.  To me, this service gives a picture of what fully autonomous vehicles will be like once they are integrated.

I think the point-to-point model will mean many more car sharing miles traveled in Minneapolis.  As a one-car household, my family is celebrating this new option.  I now have subscriptions to two different car sharing services, and already get the sense I’ll be driving more total miles than before.

Now if only they’d expand the parking area to St. Paul.


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16 Responses to Car2Go: first impressions

  1. Jason Goray October 3, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    What application do you use on the phone? There seemed to be a ton of them on the android store and it wasn’t clear which, if any, were appropriate.

    • Andrew October 4, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      Car2Enjoy is the Android app I grabbed. It’s not an official app, but it uses Car2Go’s APIs so you can reserve cars.

  2. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins October 3, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Are all the car2go cars smart cars? Do any of these options stand out above others in terms of child-hauling? Don’t suppose any of them come with kid booster seats or anything, do they?

  3. Walter October 3, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    We have had Car2Go in San Diego for 2 years. I’m not sure how we ever lived without it. I hope you like it as much, and it is as successful in Minneapolis as it is here in San Diego. I know families who got rid of one car as a result. BTW, the fleet in SD is all electric – another bonus.

  4. John Bailey October 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Rueben — Yes, the Car2Go cars are all smart cars as they are in every city they operate. The other car sharing services Brendon mentions all have different models and sizes though I doubt (though don’t know for certain) that any have in-car booster seats.

  5. Ed October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    A nice feature of Car2Go is that once you’re signed up, you can use it in any of their other cities in the US.

  6. Mark October 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    The one obvious thing these services are leaving off that would make it a must-buy for me.

    Put a bike rack on ‘em. Ride to where-ever the car is, drive it, park it when I’m done, ride home.

    • Erik Ostrom October 4, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      It’s not a rack, but you can carry a bike inside most of the HourCar vehicles. I have to remove a wheel to fit mine in a Prius, but I guess not everyone does.

  7. Evan Roberts
    Evan October 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Why are they not in Saint Paul? I presume some regulation/ordinance/need-to-negotiate with city hall thing?

  8. Eric October 3, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Bike rack is a genius idea – especially for the other companies that don’t let you drop them off anywhere. I always wonder how hard it would be to get one of them, especially in St. Paul where there are always fewer locations.

    I would be interested in this, as well, as the father of a one-car, five-member family.

  9. Peter Fleck October 7, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Great article. I really like the ‘appliance’ idea. We went one-car when Zipcar came to town and I worked at the University of MN which had an excellent contract with the Zipcar folks. Now the U of MN has switched to HourCar so I dropped Zipcar and joined Hourcar via the U. Much better deal than what you can get outside the U. (As an alumni/former employee, I seem to be still eligible for the special deal.)

    I also joined Car2Go. There was a promo for free lifetime membership if you use the code VIKINGS (or VIKING?). Don’t know if it’s still good or not but worth a try.

    You didn’t mention that you can park at metered spaces in Minneapolis for free. If it’s a 2+ hour meter, you can terminate your trip there. If it’s less it’s still free parking but you can’t leave the car there. That in itself is an amazing benefit.

    Car2Go can go to St. Paul (and suburbs) but you can’t terminate your trip there. You have to get back to Minneapolis.

  10. Janne Flisrand
    Janne October 7, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    I’m agnostic about Car2Go, although I am also an HourCar loving member. I think that they fill really different transportation niches, not an either/or.

    For those who are reading “HourCar or Car2Go?” I think that belies a car-owner’s perspective. Many car-owners have one tool – a car – and use it to solve all transportation problems. (Think a tool box with a hammer — if that’s all you have, every problem requires a hammer.) Chatting with other HourCar members, I’ve discovered that we all have a dozen transportation solutions, and HourCar is one. I suspect that we now have a bakers dozen.

    With these two options, one is for a quick, spontaneous hop from point A to point B (assuming there’s a nearby car available) with no planned return. The other is better for round-trip errands, and especially hauling stuff. Even for hauling parents.

    A couple answers to the inquiries above, at least re: HourCar. A number of HourCars DO have car seats in them (you can see which ones on the website, I think). I always bike to the cars, lock up to the HourCar sign, and bike home.

  11. Hilary October 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    It’s disturbing to think that Car2Go will mean more driving. #1 are these even low-emissions vehicles? and #2, as pointed out in Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City,” even if the cars are low-emissions, the end result may be more air pollution if people (like the author here) just drive more. Quoting Walkable City: “… in Sweden . . . aggressive government subsidies have led to the world’s highest per-capita sales of ‘clean’ cars. The results are in, and, shockingly, ‘greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden’s transportation sector are up. . . . obliterating the gains made by increased fuel efficiency.” (p 54).

    • Erik Ostrom October 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Is there evidence that car sharing leads to more driving? Overall, I mean.

      A couple of years ago I wanted to drive less, but I found that as long as I had a car, it was always too easy to wait until driving was the only way to get where I was going on time. So I got rid of my car. But I wouldn’t have, if not for the existence of HourCar as a backup plan. I barely use it, but I like knowing it’s there.

      Today I signed up for Car2Go (because it was free!), and in using it, I may drive a little more this winter than I planned to. But I’ll still be driving a lot less than I would if car sharing didn’t exist and I’d kept my personal car.

      Obviously not every car share customer is like me. But without data I wouldn’t assume that car sharing is going to increase vehicle miles.

    • Brendon Slotterback
      Brendon Slotterback October 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      When I said “driving more”, I meant using car sharing more. Like Erik, we sold one car when the availability of multiple modes (bike, bus and car sharing), costs, and access to destinations, made only having one car attractive. Previously, when my wife and I absolutely needed two cars in one day, I usually rented a car. Car2Go and other services may replace this now. If the net effect of multiple expanded car sharing services is many people can lose or stay with one car, that’s a positive. Of course, we should watch the data closely. Here’s some information on emissions of Car2Go vehicles: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=32357

  12. Michelle October 25, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Yeah, Car2Go and Hourcar are definitely complementary services. I haven’t used Car2Go yet, but signed up on a free membership in September, and Hourcar is my go-to for my rare car trips. Hourcar is really fantastic for errand-running, especially considering that many of us need to go out to the ‘burbs occasionally for errands, and Car2Go really loses all its benefits when you exit the MPLS city limits.

    A bike rack would make it more ideal for other instances, but as a MPLS to St. Paul commuter most of those uses don’t exist for me yet. It would be pretty rad if I could throw the bike on the back of a Car2Go to get me to work on a morning when (for whatever reason) I needed to get to work by car but was fine biking home.