Residents of Portland and Washington, D.C. will have another option for getting around town without owning a car. Car2Go is expanding its fleet of rentable Smart cars this month and will set up shop in the East and West coast cities.
Car2Go, a subsidiary of Daimler, began its car-sharing service in Germany in 2008 and launched in the U.S. in 2009. It currently counts 70,000 members in nine international cities, and launched a fleet of 200 all-electric Smart cars in San Diego, Calif. at the end of last year.
With insurance, gasoline, and parking included in the rental rates, the service is similar to other car-sharing networks, such as ZipCar, but it offers a few unique advantages. Car2Go uses a floating fleet of vehicles, and rental periods are open ended. This means there's no rushing back home by a certain time to drop off the car for the next anxious borrower, and you can drop the car off in any valid public parking space within the operating zone. Vehicles are redistributed throughout the city each night by Car2Go employees. Instead of booking by the hour, members rent vehicles by the minute, which makes the service ideal for short, one-way trips across town.
Of course, there are drawbacks to this business model. There's no guarantee there will be a car available or near you when you need it. And by standardizing on the Smart ForTwo, members only have the option of renting a two-seater, which is less than ideal for families. But the service will fit a niche for people who typically rely on taxis to run errands or get them to places public transportation doesn't.
Car2Go will phase in a fleet of more than 200 vehicles in each of the cities at the end of March. The official launch date is set for March 24 in Washington D.C. and March 31 in Portland, Oregon. Membership for the service in Portland and Washington D.C. opens for enrollment today. For a limited time, the one-time $35 registration fee is waived and includes 30 minutes of free driving time.
Rental rates are $0.35 per minute or $12.99 per hour. To borrow a Smart ForTwo for an entire day will cost $65.99.