On July 7, Zipcar Inc., the world's largest car sharing service, announced its first Electric Vehicle Pod, including an all-electric vehicle (EV) Citroën c1 and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Toyota Prius. The vehicles stationed at the EV Pod are among the most efficient and technologically advanced on the road today and are available to members by the hour for a fraction of the cost of owning one, the company said.
"Since early in this decade, Zipcar has been integrating alternative vehicles into the fleet-giving our members the opportunity to push the envelope and evaluate a range of advanced-vehicle technologies," said Scott Griffith, chairman and CEO of Zipcar. "Our proprietary car sharing technology platform allows us to manage a variety of cutting-edge vehicles, serving hundreds of thousands of Zipsters who benefit from convenience, cost savings and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions."
While EVs are showing great promise, and increased manufacturing capacity is projected in the coming years, large-scale consumer adoption appears to be limited by two key concerns-the lack of widespread availability of charging stations and limited battery range. These two issues may curb the allure of EVs to the mainstream consumer audience for some time. However, with an average trip-duration of just under four hours and less than 25 miles, more than 95 percent of Zipcar trips would fall within the range of an EV, meaning EVs are ideally suited for early, large-scale use in Zipcar's car sharing platform.
Zipcar's focus on alternative vehicles extends to consumers, business and government fleets. In recent surveys, more than 85 percent of Zipcar members stated that they would be interested in driving a plug-in vehicle. Zipcar responded with the San Francisco launch of its first PHEV pilot program. Since the February launch, 75 percent of vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) in this vehicle have been powered by electric charge rather than petroleum-based fuel.
Addressing the growing needs of government and business fleet owners to reduce carbon emissions and save money, Zipcar launched FastFleet in April. In Washington D.C., Zipcar's FastFleet technology will reduce D.C.'s government-operated fleet by 365 vehicles over the next three years and instead allow city employees to utilize a shared fleet currently composed of 97 percent alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas and hybrid electric.
Zipcar's experience with advanced technology vehicles dates back to 2003 when it became the first car sharing company to offer hybrids to its members. In 2004, in partnership with Toyota, Zipcar offered its first EVs - the electrified Toyota RAV 4. Since then, Zipcar has added nearly 1,000 hybrids to the fleet, more than any other car sharing company in the world. To date, the company estimates more than 100,000 unique members have driven an EV or hybrid.