Car2Go answer to getting mobile
DAWN OF AN ERA? Mercedes' Smart car2go concept could be the face of all inner-city traffic someday.
What could be the future of inner-city driving has spread a little further with the introduction of Daimler’s Smart ForTwo ‘Car2Go’ concept to a second major German city.
It’s a whole new way to think of car rental that’s already in use in the Texan state capital of Austin and in Ulm in Germany. Simply, users look around for a parked ‘Car2Go’ unit, get in and drive away; Hamburg is the next city to be populated – from early 2011.
That city will get 300 two-seater Smart ForTwo minicars equipped with highly sophisticated car-sharing telematics, a solar roof and fresh from their world premiere at the 2010 Paris auto show but the number will grow with demand.
It’s a joint venture between Daimler and car-rental company Europcar with the latter holding the larger stake.
'A good option'
Hamburg’s senator of urban development and the environment, Anja Hajduk, explained: “People who have trouble finding a parking space every day, who live near a main traffic thoroughfare or are stuck in traffic during the rush hour know that it makes sense to reduce the amount of car traffic in our city.
“A service such as this, offering an alternative to using one's own car, helps to achieve this – Car2Go is a good option for people who mostly use other forms of transport but still want to use a car from time to time.”
The concept could, in time, easily adapt itself to using battery Smarts and cutting down on urban pollution even more.
Europcar Group CEO Philippe Guillemot is convinced the schemes will work. "This launch marks the beginning of a new era in urban mobility, an era of car mobility on demand. It combines the freedom and comfort of a personal car with the benefits of public transport. We see the service becoming a very attractive lifestyle option as people discover its simplicity and convenience.”
The operations in Austin and Ulm are booming. In Ulm 20 000 people are registered to use the 200 ForTwo diesels, cars already due to be replaced before the end of 2010 with 300 of the new Car2Go ForTwo mhd (magnetohydrodynamic generator) units – essentially, a fancy name for electric cars.
Since the end of March 2009, when the service was introduced in Ulm, almost 350 000 journeys have been made and more than four-million kilometres travelled. That users can spontaneously make one-way journeys around the city has proved very popular; nine out of 10 ‘rentals’ end at a location other than its start.
Users can start and end their rental wherever they choose and use the car for as long or as short a time as they like.
Austin, which came on line only in May 2010, has 10,000 registered users who have made more than 80 000 rentals.
At the end of the rental the Smarts can be parked in any public parking space that offers unlimited parking or in city-managed car parks that require a parking disc without having to pay, feed a parking meter, or display a parking disc – parking is included in the rental.
So what does it cost? In Hamburg, 29 euro cents (about R2.80) a minute or a maximum of 14.90 euros (about R140) an hour, whichever is cheaper. That includes fuel, insurance, mileage covered, taxes and all parking charges.
There is a once-off user registration fee of 29 euros (about R280), after which the only charge is for use.
At the heart of the Smart Cr2Go is a central control panel with a 16cm touch-sensitive screen that also houses the vehicle key and up to four chip cards – for refuelling and entering multi-storey car parks, for example.
The telematics unit is networked with the vehicle's electronic system and can control features such as the immobiliser, depending on the rental process.
The solar roof, which is standard, has an output of 100W. The solar energy produced is used to supply power to the telematics and to continually charge the car’s battery. This allows the alternator to be decoupled whilst driving, reducing fuel consumption. In addition, if the vehicle is parked in the sun, solar energy is used to power the ventilation system, which can reduce the temperature in the interior by as much as 18C.