Stuttgart, Germany – Daimler AG has announced that it will launch a car-sharing program, featuring mild hybrid versions of the Smart Fortwo, in Austin, Texas this fall. The program, called Car2go and already launched in Germany, will use Smart cars fitted with an automatic start/stop system.
“The very promising results of the first, internal pilot phase in Ulm (Germany) show that with Car2go, we have found another answer to current and future mobility needs in metrop0litan areas,” said Dr. Thomas Weber of Daimler AG. “Our project in Austin is the next logical step.”
The Ulm program, launched in October 2008, allows drivers to rent the car spontaneously on the street, or to pre-book it via mobile phone or Internet. The car is used for as long as desired, and then returned to any unoccupied public parking space within the area of operation. The charge of 19 Euro cents per minute covers taxes, insurance, mileage and fuel, while longer periods can be purchased for €9.90 per hour, or €49 per day. Users register for free and receive a small seal on their driver’s licenses, which opens the vehicle via a card reader behind the windshield.
The initial Ulm project used 50 Smart vehicles, rented by 500 Daimler employees and 200 of their family members as test drivers. In peak periods, the entire fleet was used to full capacity, and 8,000 rentals have been registered since the start. The project has now been moved into a public testing phase with 200 vehicles.
Daimler chose Austin because of its size, its strong sense of environmental responsibility, and that it houses the country’s fourth-largest university. “We deliberately chose a large American city,” said Jérome Guillen, director of Business Innovation at Daimler. “In the USA, the car-sharing market has the highest growth rates in the world. For this reason we see very good chances of success there for Car2go, especially because Car2go offers many advantages over the known car-sharing offers.” Guillen said these include free availability without obligation to use certain parking spaces, on-the-spot rental for as long as desired, and a simple, clear price structure.
As with the first phase of the German pilot project, the Austin Car2go will begin with a defined group of users, such as city employees. It is then planned to make the program accessible to the public in a second step. The initial fleet is expected to be 200 Smart Fortwo vehicles with start/stop capability.