Blog Post

CHEAT SHEET: How Green Are City Car-Sharing Networks?

zipcar_priusCar-sharing networks like Zipcar — the largest in the U.S. — often earn environmental points for helping to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. And as we’ve written on GigaOM Pro (subscription only) and on Earth2Tech, these services — hooked up to communications networks and often used by eco-minded and urban consumers — may offer a prime testing ground for early generations of plug-in vehicles. Already, many car-sharing networks have hybrids in their fleets (it makes sense, given that the companies and nonprofits running the networks generally pay for fuel). But not all networks are created equal when it comes to deploying ultra-efficient, hybrid and plug-in models. We’ve put together a cheat sheet showing how they compare on green cars, price and scale.

Network Location/ Scale/ Launch Date Green Cars Financing/Business Model/Fees
Altcar Baltimore, MD 10 electric vehicles Launch: June 2009 Electrovaya’s all-electric Maya 300, a low-speed four-seater set to lauch commercially in 2011. Plug-in Cars? Yes. Hybrids? No. Oil and gas behemoth ExxonMobil has backed the program with a $500K investment as part of an exhibit at the Maryland Science Center. Membership + Application Fees: $75, plus $35 annual fee; Rates: $9/hour, $72/day, or $7.50/hour, $60/day with $25 monthly fee
Autolib Paris, France 4,000 electric vehicles (planned) Launch: Late 2010 or mid-2011 A group including Avis, French national railway SNCF and Paris transit authority reportedly plan to bid on a contract to build infrastructure, operate the program, and find EV suppliers. French utility Veolia Environnement and public transit operator Transdev are also bidding on the contract. Daimler, Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroen have “expressed interest,” according to BusinessWeek. Plug-in Cars? Yes. Hybrids? No. City and regional governments are expected to contribute up to $18M for infrastructure. Rates: $22-$29 monthly subscription
San Francisco Bay Area, CA (plus “roaming” deals with car-sharing networks in other states, and also in Copenhagen) “Hundreds” of vehicles, 200 locations Launch: 2001 Fleet includes more than 75 hybrids, including Honda Civic hybrids, mostly Toyota Prius hybrids and two Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids. Plug-in Cars? Some. Hybrids? Yes. Nonprofit. Rates: $5/hour + $0.40/mile, discounted plans for some universities, companies
Connect by Hertz Select cities and universities in AZ, CA, CT, IL, MA, NJ, NY, OH and Washington, D.C. Also London and Paris. 600 vehicles. Launch: December 2008 Hybrids are offered at the lowest rate and make up 5-10 percent of the fleet. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? Yes. Part of Hertz Corp (s HTZ), which claims to be the “world’s largest general use car rental brand.” Application Fee: $25 Rates: Connect Plan – $50 annual membership, $10+/hour; Connect 50 Plan – $50/month, $9+/hour; Connect 125 – $125/month, $8.50+/hour
Daimler’s Car2Go Ulm, German and Austin, TX. 200 vehicles in Ulm, 200 planned for Austin, starting with city employees. Launch: October 2008, Ulm. Fall 2009, Austin. Smart Fortwo micro-hybrid (automatic start-stop) in Austin; Fortwo cdi (diesel) in Ulm. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? No. German automaker Daimler’s (s DAI) first foray into car sharing. No registration fee. Rates: 19+ euro cents/minute, 9.90+ euros/hour, 49 euros/day in Ulm. TBA for Austin.
Boulder-Denver metro area. Launch: 2001 (formerly called Boulder CarShare) Toyota Prius Hybrid, along with the Honda Fit, forms “the foundation” of the fleet. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? Yes. Nonprofit. Application Fee: $25 Rates: With a $10 monthly fee – $2.50-$4.50/hour + $0.30/mile, $49-$65/day. With no monthly fee – $4.50-$6.50/hour + $0.30/mile, $59-$75/day.
I-GO Car Sharing Chicago, IL Entire fleet made up of “low emission vehicles,” including Toyota Prius hybrids and plug-in hybrids, Honda Insight hybrid, Honda Civic hybrid. Plug-in Cars? Yes. Hybrids? Yes. Nonprofit. Rates: $0-30 monthly fee, $6.75-8.50/hour + $0-$0.40/mile, $65-70/day depending on plan.
Mint Cars
on Demand
New York, NY Launch: 2008 Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? No. Run by a New York parking operator. Application Fee: $25/driver. Rates: $40/year after first year, $5+/hour, $69+/day, depending on model, day of the week and time of day. Business customers get a 10 percent discount on weekdays.
Philadelphia, PA. Launch: November 2002 Fleet includes Camry, Civic and Prius hybrids, priced on the low-middle end. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? Yes. Nonprofit that seeks partnerships with property managers, developers and universities. Revenue from car sharing covers all operating costs. Rates: $3.45-$8.45/hour + $0.25/mile, or $39-$99/day, depending on model and weekday vs. weekend.
Streetcar London, Brighton, Southampton, Maidstone, Guildford, Cambridge, UK. 55K members, 850 locations (UK’s largest car sharing network) Launch: April 2004 Fleet includes some Polo BlueMotion diesel models. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? No. Registration Fee: £59.50 for 1 year, or £99 for 2 years. Rates:£3.95-£8.95/hour
Sun Fleet 9K members Company says cars in the fleet, including Volvo V70 Flexifuel and Volvo C30, meet Swedish Road Administration’s requirements for green cars. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? No. Part of Hertz Sweden and Volvo Personbilar Sweden. Rates: N/A
U Car Share Select cities and college campuses in CA, MA, ME, OR, TX, UT, VA, WI N/A Part of UHaul. Application Fee: $25 Rates:$4.95+/hour + $0.59/mile, 10 percent discount with $50/month prepay or 15 percent discount with $125/month prepay
Whizzgo 10 cities across the UK. Launch: 2004 Fleet includes only low-emission Citroen models. Plug-in Cars? No. Hybrids? No. Rates: £5.99+/hour short bookings; £2.08/hour for 24-hour bookings
ZipCar 275K members in 25+ states and provinces across North America, 6,500+ vehicles. Launch: 2000 First “EV Pod” launched in July, starting with a fleet of 20 hybrids and two plug-ins (an all-electric Citroen c1 and a plug-in hybrid Prius) in London, and plans for it to grow to some 400 vehicles by 2012, with 30 percent of them being hybrid. Prius hybrids throughout the fleet, including some plug-ins. Plug-in Cars? Some. Hybrids? Yes. Hoping to achieve profitability next year and eventually go public, Zipcar (the country’s largest car sharing network) launched an enterprise version of its fleet management system earlier this year. Membership + Application Fee: $50/year + $25 Rates: $7+/hour or $69+/day, depending on model, plan and weekday vs. weekend. Lowest rates offered for hybrids.

9 Responses to “CHEAT SHEET: How Green Are City Car-Sharing Networks?”

  1. I have been a member of Streetcar for 6 months until this week. It’s all nice and easy until…

    You receive an e-mail stating there was a damage to the car after you left it.

    I am being charged 860 pounds for a significant damage which was not on the car when I left it. Customer Services Team is useless, you can never speak to a Manager, they never call you back when you ask them to. They don’t care anyway as they just take the money from your credit card !

    Many more customers have suffered unjustified charges! be careful for 860 pounds you can buy a second hand car.

    Do not subscribe ! it could become the most expensive trip ever !!

    A journalist wrote about it as well:

  2. Kudos to you for pointing out that there are differences in car-types among car share providers. As a City CarShare representative, I’d like to point out that the differences are notable. For example, a third party study by UC Berkeley was done on usage behavior among City CarShare members in the Bay Area. One of the factors determining the results of this study focused on fuel economy and emissions.

    Based on this study, we have calculated that 80,000 fewer miles are driven each day, saving 1.8 million gallons of gasoline this year. Collectively, 35 million fewer pounds of CO2 are emitted this year as well. All of our cars are fuel efficient with low emissions ratings because we care about the impact of our members’ usage (and yes, it saves us money.) Thirty-three percent of City CarShare’s fleet is comprised of hybrids and we have 2 plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, one in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.

    To find a list of more providers please go to

    -Thanks for sharing!

  3. the key is that if you use these services rather than owning a car you will drive less and think twice before driving rather than taking your bike or transit.

    Fuel economy of the cars is somewhat irrelavent.

    • Josie Garthwaite

      @whatup – I agree with your first point that one of the big environmental gains with car-sharing is that people tend to drive less when they use these services. And sure, fuel economy is one of several factors in the overall impact of these fleets, but it’s not irrelevant.