Today I tried Car2Go for the first time, and despite a few glitches, I want more. More shared, one-way transport options. More cars. More uptake from the public and my local community.
Car2Go is one of two car-sharing schemes in Austin, the other being Austin CarShare. Of the two, Car2Go is less commitment – a $35 joining fee means you can borrow a car at a reasonable rate any time.
This evening, I got my Car2Go card in the mail, and despite the fact that we have two cars for two adults in our family, I thought I’d test the system, and pop along to HEB to get some supplies for our young son, Otto. My wife’s car is a little sick, and given the promise of me walking to work in Mueller Austin, I wanted to test the idea of a single car for our family, in addition to a Car2Go car.
Also, I wanted to ride in a Smart Car and see how fast it would go around a roundabout. Not exactly green? Well, maybe not, but if I’m going to be testing cars, they might as well be 60mpg+ ones.
The system is delightfully simple. You pull out your phone or laptop, figure out where the nearest available car is, optionally reserve it, and toddle over on foot. I think the system works well if you’re near a bunch of other people who use them to drive to their homes, which I am. Mueller is full of forward thinking early adopters, and this presumably means people will drive cars here and then park them here much of the time. I see a bunch as I’m out and about, and tonight was no exception.
I had to walk 300 meters to get to my target vehicle, then I held up the card, entered a pin, retrieved the key and the monstrous engine roared to life. Actually, the car was quite fun to drive – what little of it there was. It accelerated passably with it’s jerry-rigged automatic gear shifting, and took a few moments to get used to.
Off to HEB. I had to park and keep the car key (and continue to rent it) as when I parked, I wasn’t apparently in the Car2Go service area. I thought I was, but heck, it ensured that my ride would be there when I got out, allbeit at 35 cents per shopping minute. I don’t think of the annualized cost of running my current car, and think I’m wasting money when it’s sitting in the garage, so a mental adjustment needs to be made.
I got back, avoided getting a speeding ticket as I passed two police cars on Airport Boulevard, and parked outside my home. Perfect, I thought. There was a little glitch when the car’s GPS thought I was very far away from the service area, and I was connected immediately by phone to a man from Belfast working in Holland for Car2Go. He asked me if I was under and large trees. Clearly he isn’t familiar with Mueller. I said I’d park 300 meters away (where I picked up the car) to see if the GPS could pick me up. It did. I parked and walked home.
A slight pain in the butt to be honest, but easily overcome by my wild enthusiasm for the idea of holding up a small device to locate a vehicle, walking to it and letting myself in with a plastic card. Seriously, the idea blows my mind. I want it to work.
I want people not to game the system (I’ve already had fantasies about getting a flash mob to collect a bunch of Car2Go vehicles and go out on a photo scavenger hunt, but realize this isn’t in the spirit of things). I want there to be more community cars, and less personal cars. And I don’t want to have to buy a Smart Car. The next step is more of the same for electric cars. Or even electric cars within the neighborhood. Can’t wait.
Looking at my trip, I could have driven another 20 minutes for no additional cost (though that certainly would have been a waste of energy). And there’s no way I managed to get to HEB and back and around the roundabout a few times in 1.9 miles. Until we get a walkable neighborhood here, I’m going to look very seriously at going down to 1 car.
Garreth Wilcock is an Austin EcoBroker® with Keller Williams Realty.