Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘car2go

Electric Car2Go

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These electric Smart cars have been part of the Car2Go fleet in Vancouver for a while now. I have not actually seen one until today. I was taking a look at my Android car2go app after getting an email this morning. Car2Go had been “experiencing a partial disruption in service” this morning, so I was curious what the app would show. Turns out that not only was there an available car right outside but there was a little electric logo on it. ⚡

By the way the Car2Go app for Android is much better than any other I have used (iOS or Symbian)

Smart EV rear

The vehicle looks much like any other car2go. I think the term “electric drive” could easily be confused with a hybrid, which while it has an internal combustion (IC) engine does indeed have a final electric drive. But this is a real EV – a battery only electric vehicle.

Smart EV front near

Actually this is one of the nicer variants of the Smart car that has a glass roof and electric motors to control the door mirrors. And, as seems to be common practice, the roller blind across the ceiling had been left open, and the car parked in full sun. So it was a nice little oven to get into – with extra frying on the seat and seat back. Cloth upholstery would be so much nicer.

Smart EV front off

Smart EV interior

Everything about the car is as similar as possible to the IC car. It has an “ignition” key – just nothing much seems to happen when you turn it except the radio comes on and you can open the windows and turn on the fan. It also has air conditioning. I turned that off as soon as it was comfortable enough, and drove with the windows down. At city speeds, that is more energy efficient. Using a/c and keeping the windows closed works better at highway speed.

The pick up on any electric vehicle is always better than any IC since the torque characteristics are quite different. You can easily leave everyone else standing at the lights if you want to. Some of the older IC Smart cars are quite sluggish, especially from a standing start, and with a distinct lag after each gear shift.

Smart EV two extra dials

I am not convinced that these are actually necessary, since the conventional fuel gauge on a Smart car – just under the speedometer – is easily readable. What is noticeable is that this car has regenerative braking, so power is fed back into the battery when braking. In fact even if you just take your foot of the accelerator. This is a pity but common to every EV I have ever driven. I think that imitating engine braking to make the car feel familiar is not needed. Better would be the ability to coast. I found that even the lightest pressure on the right pedal caused battery drain, and driving feet off meant the car slowed. In fact the slowing was more noticeable than some IC cars I have driven

Plug it in, plug it in

Although I did take it around the houses so I could try it on the hills of Kerrisdale (nothing to report there) and traffic was light, the whole journey was easy and used hardly any juice. I think the needle must have gone down a bit but for most around town use I should not think that range is going to be an issue. I know you get can a charge at City Hall. Maybe there’s something on the in car navigation system about charging stations – I forgot to check. There is a key fob for charging. I didn’t notice if there was a credit card.


In other news

I found the hype of Elon Musk’s “HyperLoop” easy to resist. On twitter, Jarret Walker seemed to hit the right note of skepticism, as you would expect. The problems of human transportation being mostly about the basic physics and geometry issues. The greatest weakness of the analysis is not so much Musk’s assessment of potential number of trips but a lack of appreciation about how much network connectivity is going to matter to make the low density sprawl of southern California work to feed his point to point service.

Personally I would far prefer a High Speed Train, though I can easily understand the frustrations of those who feel let down by the tentative approach being taken in California. I much prefer to look out of a window (though in an HST keeping your eye on the distant horizon is important for comfort) but most of all I like to get out of my seat and walk around when under way. This is not exactly encouraged on planes or buses – but is at least feasible. I find the idea of remaining seated in a windowless vehicle claustrophobic. Even if it is only for half an hour.

Recent news from Britain about ever more fare increases for the privatized railway show once again how wrong headed that approach to public transportation is and has been throughout. There is a growing lobby there in favour of renationalization. But David Cameron’s former speech writer thinks they are fantastic 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

CAR2GO first trip

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I reported the launch of the one way car rental service months ago. I was one of the first to sign up while membership was free, but up until yesterday there was no real reason to use the service. In part that is due to its geographic restriction with cars only available and which must be returned to the northern part of Vancouver – from the seawall to 41st Avenue.

Yesterday we were planning a walk along the sea wall, and last week I had seen a tweet from Car2Go with a short link ( to a car finding web page that would work on any mobile. There has been an app for iPhones and some others for a while. This new one actually links to a web site in Germany which uses Google maps to show where you are and where the nearest car is. I imagine the iPhone app automates some of this by using GPS, but it is not difficult to enter a street address – including the city name – and the map information is returned quite quickly. (Even so, I hope some clever clogs develops an app for use with the Symbian system using the Car2Go API.) This was even easier than entering a bus stop number into Translink’s web site, which produces only schedule information, not real time.

Nanton at Arbutus

As it happened, the nearest car was near a bus stop (Arbutus at Nanton) and I recalled seeing reserved parking spaces for Car2Go at Granville Island. At 35c a minute, the car is even competitive with transit as the rental time was about ten minutes. So for two people $3.50 was less than than two one zone transit tickets ($2.50 each) – and parking (of course) is free. The journey time was much faster and the drop off much closer than the #16 bus stop on Granville Bridge.

Granville Island

Granville Island

As soon as we got out of the car, a visitor started asking me about the service. As you can see from the picture there are three spaces reserved near the market but if they are full you can park in any 3 hour space – if you can find one.

Balsam at Cornwall

For the return we had walked to Kits beach and there are two spaces at Cornwall and Balsam. Only one car was there but it was out of service awaiting attention.

Kits Beach

So I used the phone again and found another on 2nd Ave – a short walk away. Actually the map turned out to be more useful than the street address since the car was actually parked in the lane behind the building (quite legally).

Indeed for a blogger there is very little to write. The service was exactly as advertised. The cars were convenient, easy to use and the whole process was almost effortless. I had originally thought that it would be unlikely that CAR2GO could beat transit on cost and, of course, my journey times reflect yesterday’s very light traffic. On a weekday at peak periods, it might easily have taken twice as long, and I could well have spent more time looking for a parking space. But compared to the last time we made a similar trip by transit – when the return journey required a transfer with a long wait for the bus connection – service was indeed far superior. Even taking the time of finding the second car into account.


UPDATE In the interests of accuracy and complete disclosure I have now been to the Car2Go account page and established that the trip time was slightly more than I estimated and I forgot about the HST

So outwards it was 11 minutes (3 miles) $3.85 plus $0.46 tax and back 13 minutes (4 miles) $4.55 plus $0.55 tax: round trip for two people $9.41 including HST. So about the same as four one way rides on transit at $2.50 each – $2.10 if you buy faresavers.


For Vancouver it ought to be acutely embarrassing that this service was established while they were still in the process of trying to get a one way bike rental system going. These have been available for some time now in London, Paris, Toronto and Montreal and should be – in my estimation at least – an essential part of the “greenest city” claim. The Smart cars are good but they run on gasoline (electric cars are promised for future operation elsewhere). People who can rely on getting a car when they need one from car share and one way rentals do not need to own a car (or multiple cars) and tend to use transit and other modes more frequently than similar households that do own cars. But for many journeys a bicycle would be as convenient and much less fossil fuel would be burned.

I found the Smart car to be surprisingly roomy. In my Yaris I push the driving seat back to its limit to give myself a comfortable driving position. In the Smart, doing the same thing put me too far from the controls! The side mirrors in the Smart are manually adjustable – I had a passenger to sort out the near side one, but it would have been much easier if I had been on my own to have had the electric type the Yaris has. I paid no attention to the GPS map display: I have never used one in any car. I do like the fact that the radio comes on to CBC Radio 2. And the previous user had set the air conditioning on at maximum – which is noisy and not really needed for city driving speeds. I found the controls a bit heavy compared to the Yaris – the pedals need a really firm push, and the steering got lively on some of the streets where lack of maintenance is used as a way to calm traffic. But parking in such a small car is a snap.

If you are in a hurry, I think the combination of a smart phone and a smart car will work well in any trip where the transit alternative requires a transfer – or could impose a pass up. Obviously when the schedulers regard 15 minutes as “frequent service” it is often going to be quicker to find and use a Car2Go than wait for a bus. Indeed, one of the main reasons that Car2Go was established in Austin Texas was the paucity of transit service. And again it ought to be a matter of embarrassment to the responsible politicians that Vancouver does not have a good enough transit service that Car2Go finds such a ready market in the the one part of the region that actually has something approaching a reasonable transit service. In part, those who defend transit need to revise the attitude that there is something worthy about making sacrifices. It may indeed increase their own self esteem to be seen to be taking transit to make needlessly time consuming and inconvenient trips but it is not a sensible public policy approach to increasing transit mode share by expecting everyone else to think the same way.

Expansion to the suburbs for one way car rental is going to be very welcome.

AFTERTHOUGHT – The people who should really be worried are the taxi operators. They have been very successful in keeping taxis exceedingly scarce and expensive but at least now, for the northern end of Vancouver, there is a far better alternative, if you can drive.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 8, 2011 at 8:52 am

Posted in car sharing, Transportation

Tagged with

CAR2GO Press Conference

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Line up of Cars 2 GO

The line up of cars at the Salt Building - my photo

I was quite delighted to be invited to the Car2Go press conference today in the Salt Building at what used to be the Olympic Village. There was a lot of press and tv in attendance – and the Vancouver Sun had a story this morning.   Just to be extra careful, I must make clear that the programme is not launched yet – in the sense of being able to take out a car. They have opened registrations but the cars themselves will not be available until June 18. However it is worth pre-registering now – but you will have to read the rest to get the promo code.

What makes this program different from the car share programs currently operating here (like Modo or zipcar) is that you do not have to return the car from where you got it. Like some of the new bike sharing programs, you can make one way trips. The car can be left at any designated spot in the business area, or any free on street legal in the residential area – including designated residential parking spaces. The special Smart cars are the only type available, but have advanced telematics so that they can be tracked and their location will be available to users when you have finished with it, and to the office to let them know when it needs attention. For that reason the “operating area” in the map appears to be very restrictive: the shore of the inlet to the north, south as far as 41st east to Nanaimo Street west to Dunbar. In fact you can take the car away from that – for instance for a trip to Stanley Park or UBC, you just cannot end the rental until you return to the operating area.

CAR2GO Operating Area

CAR2GO Operating Area

CAR2GO Dedicated Parking spots

CAR2GO Dedicated Parking spots

City of Vancouver Car-Share decal

City of Vancouver Car-Share decal - my photo

If you are not familiar with residential parking permit areas the City of Vancouver has a set of pdf maps showing the areas concerned.

I spoke to Bernice Paul the Marketing Director of Modo – the car co-op. She said that they feel that CAR2GO does not compete directly with them but will be seen as “competition for taxis”. They later released their own statement which says (in part)

Modo The Car Co-op, Metro Vancouver’s premier and only local car sharing organization, is curious about how this method of transportation will work.

“CAR2GO here in Vancouver is the first time we’ve seen a one-way service launch in a city with a combination of established car sharing, taxis, metered parking, and plans for bike sharing.” notes Tanya Paz, Modo’s Business Development Director. “We’re interested to learn if Car2Go will actually help reduce the number of individually owned cars on the road.”

Modo has been in operation since 1997 and as a founding member of the international Car Sharing Association, adheres to its Code of Ethics. As a transit-oriented car co-op, Modo prioritizes walking, cycling and public transit before the use of cars for transport.

Han Tjan, the  Head of Corporate Communications for Daimler in North America opened the proceedings with the usual welcomes. He said that the area selected in Vancouver is walkable, bikeable and transit served  [just like the city of Ulm where the program was launched and the city of Amsterdam where there will be 300 electric Smart cars]. Based on its success in Germany, Vancouver is the first city in Canada to have Car2GO

CAR2GO is perfectly suited for Vancouver. Daimler will open a fuel cell production facility in Vancouver [eventually the current internal combustion cars will be supplemented and probably replaced by electric cars]. These are the right answers in urban areas. The idea is innovative and successful. The idea came up in 2007 in Ulm where the  first pilot phase of 50 cars was used by Daimler employees, who are the most demanding customers. Together with Austin there are now 35,000 regular members in the two cities.

Nicholas Cole CEO of Car2Go Canada 

Vancouver is not just the first Canadian market, the company will be headquartered here and is proud to call Vancouver home. Car sharing is already working here. They will be opening with 225 low emission vehicles on June 18. At present there is no registration fee on-line at or at the office 45 Water Street in Gastown.

The Concept is based on the Smart Car that has been specifically designed for car sharing with a solar panel on the roof. It was sourced through the local Mercedes-Benz Canada retailers. It offers another easy and affordable option for the  dense urban area: it is designed for the city and enhances bus and walk trips. It is  part of the solution: an on demand alternative to vehicle ownership. It is available 24 hours a day,  7 days a week and may be used spontaneously or reserved 24 hours in advance.

CAR2GO reader

CAR2GO reader - my photo

Renting is a 6 step process –

  • find a car using the smart phone app or on the web:
  • use your membership card to gain access using the reader stuck to the windshield – see my photo above
  • enter PIN and answer two questions about the state of the vehicle:
  • you may the use the key provided to start the car; there is no need to book the usage period. There is a discount for daily use, and no requirement to return the car – you can park it and  hold on to the key if you want to. And users can always check their account on-line.
  • at the end of the rental you use the telematics system to say that you are finished
  • put the key back into the console – the car is locked using the membership card again

He said that CAR2GO is part of the new movement to collaborative consumption – share and rent to reduce waste. He acknowledged support from City of Vancouver and said that last year’s test period showed that it would be a good fit here.

There is a mandatory $2 fee for the special ICBC car sharing insurance  but that they will donate  that $2 fee for next 12 months to Canuck Place. They are also waiving the $35 membership fee for an introductory period (see below).

Gregor Robertson

said that the Salt Building was the “athletes living room” [It is to become a restaurant and this is the last event that will be allowed to used the building in its present form.] The city has the goal of becoming the greenest city and a full range of transportation options is essential to that. He also insists on maintaining the city’s livability. People in the city already walk, cycle and take transit in record numbers and were also early adopters of car sharing. There is a compelling environmental case in terms of the overall ecological footprint of car sharing. He said he was also excited to see that the company is to have its Canadian headquarters here, which fits with Vancouver’s desire to be at the centre of the  global green economy.

In answer to my question about the role of the telematics – it knows when it leaves the operating area – Mr Cole said that you are free to leave that area but you have to bring it back to end the rental period.

Bernice Paul asked if they had any information on the reduction in car use in the other cities. Nicholas Cole said that they were “just starting to collect that data and will do that going forward.”

He also said that “after we get operating we will look at the number of cars and the size of the operating area”.

Christopher Gaze – Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach one of the users in last year’s trial here said  “We had thought of getting another car. We now won’t.” In an interview with me later he clarified that:  his household has no intention of giving up their Jag, but they would not need a second car now. He currently commutes from his home in Kits to the Bard on his bicycle. Mostly.

I also spoke to Juliane Muehling, the Corporate Communications Manager for CAR2GO. She told me that Austin, Texas was quite different to Ulm – and Vancouver – but they were very keen to get the first American operation there, mainly due to the inadequacies of their transit system. They have had no problem with vandalism – as happens with the Velib bike share system in Paris. The cars stay in communication which means that they get fuel and servicing at need. There is a fuelling card in the car: users may use to refill the tank – and if they do so get some free minutes on their rental. They intend to be a small company and use local vendors and services – for example Bashir Auto is doing the cleaning. The City concession on allowing parking in residential zones is common to all car shares not just CAR2GO.

I did take the car on a short test drive and found the process to be easy. There are two videos on the web site if you feel you need more teaching. I was pleased to note that the radio is tuned to CBC Radio 2 by default – though that could change in response to user demands. The telematics system includes a hands free cell phone.

You might also be interested to know that the system was developed with (W)right ON Communications wave front services: they are a federal government funded “wireless accelerator”, a non-profit designed to promote technology.

UPDATE November 2, 2011

I have already registered myself, and have now used the cars several times

If you decide to do so enter the promo code SUSTAINABLE and you will get free registration and 30 free minutes of drive time.

CAR2GO with a bus - CAR2GO supplied image

The following links are to pdf files provided by Daimler/CAR2GO

car2go Press Release Vancouver Announcement

car2go Extra Sheet Vancouver Announcement

car2go Graphic: Success Story

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Posted in car sharing

Tagged with ,

CAR2GO – new car share program

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I took this picture on April 14th when I was around Science World getting pictures of the viaducts and the Olympic Village. This was just one of those “never heard of that before” moments – and, frankly, I forgot all about it until scanning through the backlog looking for stuff to put on flickr. Rather than just put up a picture I googled car2go and found a bit on wikipedia which intrigued me. And since there seemed to be some sort of mystery I tweeted and facebooked too. Ah the power of social media. This morning I get an invitation to a press conference on Wednesday with Mayor Roberston. They tell me:

car2go is an innovative mobility solution redefining individual transportation in urban areas. A subsidiary of Daimler, it provides an innovative mode of “on-demand” transportation which compliments existing public transportation alternatives by bridging the gaps commonly associated with the “first and last mile” of a public transit commute. car2go offers an extensive fleet of environment-friendly smart “car2go edition” vehicles with solar roof for rent. Unlike traditional carsharing programs, car2go vehicles can be accessed “on-demand,” and members may use the vehicle for as long as they like, without committing to a specific location or time to return the vehicle. Charges are based on minutes used and include fuel, insurance, parking and maintenance.

After launching the program in the city of Ulm, Germany as a pilot project in 2008, Austin, Texas was the first US city launched in November 2009 followed by the German city of Hamburg in April 2011.

To date, car2go has reached more than 20.000 customers in Ulm and 15,000 registered members in Austin and is set to undergo significant expansion in North America in 2011.

Seems like there is to be a new car sharing service in town – expect more as soon as I can get something on line on Wednesday. If only I had posted the picture when I had taken it I could have claimed a scoop. I beat wikipedia by a day in getting the image.

UPDATE April 25, 2011

I have been informed that there was a limited trial assessment running in Vancouver last year.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2011 at 10:14 am

Posted in car sharing

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