From The New Yorker:


The car-sharing industry has its roots in mid-century Europe, whose coöperative vehicle pooling was mimicked, in the nineteen-eighties, by American nonprofits and city governments. But only with the spread of G.P.S. and smartphone technologies have today’s private companies been able to produce real efficiencies for the user and measurable benefits for the environment.

In 2010, Susan Shaheen, a transportation expert at the University of California, Berkeley, published a ten-year review of car-sharing data, concluding that the model basically works: those with new access to cars will drive more, but their impact is more than offset by that of car owners who begin using the programs. In other words, were car sharing to replace private car ownership in the city, the effect would likely be more drivers doing less driving. Car2Go bridges the gap between American hearts, which are still piston powered, and the typical American salary, which is just equal to the average cost of a new car.


For a local view, here is a summary from the Urban Land Institute BC of a seminar on car-sharing as part of the ‘Next Million’ series.


  1. A brilliant concept bridging the gap between public transit ( often slow, wobbly & inconvenient ) and car ownership ( often too expensive if not used often).

    I use it 2-3 times a week and almost always prefer it over a slow wobbly bus at 3-4 times the cost ($8-9 vs $2.10) but half to 1/3 the time. We eliminated one car and the one way use is brilliant. It shows the Zip Car or Modo car share model has failed.

    Interesting to note is that Car2Go eliminated its few electric cars in Vancouver – mainly due to charging complexity and confusion to my knowledge. If e-cars are so great, why would all Car2Go vehicles not be electric as the cars are light, used usually by one max two people and driven short distances. Why are they not all electric ?

    1. You kind of answered your own question, Thomas. Complexity and confusion over where/how to charge. Electric cars are currently better in theory, but require a critical mass of simple and legible supporting infrastructure that does not yet exist. It’s a lousy catch-22: you need the infrastructure in place for them to be more popular, yet they’re not going to be more popular until the infrastructure is in place. It’s an incremental process with not a whole lot of incentive at the moment.

      The situation is no different than with gasoline-powered cars in the early 20th century. Why buy one of these stupid machines if there are so few gas stations to make it practical? My only possible use of the car will consist of a trip to the gas station and back. Over time this stopped being a problem.

      1. Not quite. The critical issue is that charging takes far too long, unless extremely high voltage. Unlike personally owned Teslas (or even Nissan Leaf) where one can assume a garage or private parking space with an electric outlet nearby, Car2Go or any shared e-car is parked on a public road with 0 charge stations. I am currently in Athens, Greece where every street is parked full of vehicles. Quite ugly. Car-squatting like in Vancouver. Wondering how this would look like if they were all e-cars, i.e. cleaner and quieter. Cables everywhere ? An outlet with meters every car ? 4 per block with 20m long cables everywhere? A massive city wide investment would be required to achieve this. How likely is this ? Gas stations are all private. Which private firm will install 110 V, 220V, 440V or 1kV charging infrastructures city wide ?

        Perhaps the AV will change all that in 2040 when it drives itself back to the base station to charge.

        The under-discussed Achilles heel #1 of e-cars: charging.
        The under-discussed Achilles heel #2 of e-cars: price of the energy. In Europe where one kwh is about 25-30 Euro cents or 35-45 Canadian cents, and assuming 20kwh per 100km (using Tesla’s data) that is $7-9 per 100km, or the price of 5-8 liters per 100km .. slightly, but not much cheaper than a gasoline car. With electricity expected to rise due to more solar, wind or new power plants this one current advantage will also be gone. So not as compelling as assumed. For that reason, very few e-cars in (expensive) Europe ! Unless gasoline will be massively more expensive, or e-cars far cheaper, far more efficient and far faster to charge e-cars will remain a toy for the rich, subsidized by the middle class and poor that take transit or drive a gas car at best ! As such, the better alternative is less cars, driven less, more efficient per km of distance, i.e. smaller i.e. like Europe’s gasoline cars today !

        In the mean time, BMW wants to partake, too: joining the party very late.

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