Can Car Sharing Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption?

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Greentech Media. Author credit goes to Katherine Tweed.

When it comes to sustainable, low-carbon personal transportation, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids garner a lot of the headlines.

But there are endless other options available these days outside of personal car ownership, when your two feet or pedals just aren’t enough to get around.

Zipcar Prius PHV

image via Zipcar

The best-known U.S. example in the wide world of car sharing is Zipcar, which had an IPO last year and continues to extend its reach into cities and college campuses. Zipcar has been joined by some serious competition, like Hertz On Demand.

But car sharing through large companies has more competition: the ever-expanding pool of peer-to-peer car sharing. For every car shared, ten to fourteen cars are taken off the road. It’s not just a cool concept for urban hipsters. The U.S. Department of Energy recorded a drop in ownership of four million vehicles in 2009, the first significant decline since recordkeeping began in 1960, according to research by Susan Shaheen at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We’re hoping if you know you can access a car in your neighborhood, people might round down the number of cars they own,” said Shelby Clark, founder and Chief Community Officer of RelayRides, the most extensive peer-to-peer car sharing network in the U.S.

That mentality might seem to be at odds with car makers, but quite the opposite is true.General Motors teamed up with RelayRides last year so that GM vehicle owners can leverage OnStar to rent out their cars through RelayRides if they choose to do so. And GM is not alone. Daimler, Ford, BMW, Toyota and Renault all have a partnership with a car-sharing service or are developing their own.

Nearly all of the major car rental companies also have a car-sharing service. Hertz has On Demand, Enterprise recently acquired Mint and Avis introduced its On Location service for corporate clients last year.

There are also a host of startups in the car-sharing space, including WheelzRentMyCar,Jolly Wheels, GetaroundI-GoJustShareIt, and PATS Carshare, to name a few.  And then there’s Boulder-based eGo CarShare, which specifically focuses on energy-efficient car sharing.

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