Carsharing: Update on an Evolving Trend

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Carsharing: Update on an Evolving Trend

Cars are gradually becoming part of the sharing economy, but how far will this challenge to traditional two-car lifestyles go?
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Courtesy ZipCar

Green Builder Media

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 8:00am

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As the carsharing industry evolves, shifts and changes, many traditional businesses are angry, and many municipalities are regulating sharing services. And. of course, insurance companies are weighing in, too. There are a lot of cogs and a lot of hands (many asking for money) cranking up the wheels of change.

There are not only several car sharing companies competing in many major cities around the globe but traditional car rental companies are also getting into the act. For example traditional car-rental company Avis bought what might be called the granddaddy of car sharing, the 15-year-old ZipCar for a purported $500 million dollars. And then there are the quasi cab companies like Uber and Lyft in which owners defray their car ownership costs by driving personal cars when they are available and get linked to paying customers by apps.

With this last ridesharing form of transportation, cabbies are protesting. Some municipalities and airports have outlawed car sharing companies such as Uber. Some are insisting that Uber drivers are not independent contractors but rather employees. Other cities are claiming Uber drivers are cabbies and wanting them to get licenses and pay fees. And insurance companies? If you want to be a Uber driver read your insurance policy carefully, you might need different insurance.

Carsharing wars just beginning

An article a few days ago in GreenBiz argues that carsharing wars are just beginning, especially as the world of transportation choice expands to electric and self-driving cars. 

The article featured an interesting chart that also puzzled me. It outlined various sharing models. My experience with car sharing in Washington, DC, indicates there is little to nothing new about the one way rental in which one picks up a car at one location and drops it off at another. ZipCar in the District (now owned by Avis) has long been similar to bikesharing. Even Avis, in its days as a totally traditional round-trip car rental company did not mind or charge extra when a renter wanted to rent in one DC location and return the vehicle to another. In the District, the car sharing model has long been for the consumer to reserve a car (often these days by app), go to the nearest location, rent for several hours, several days, or more and return the car to any other designated location -- either the same place picked up or someplace else. Company personnel shift cars as needed just as they do with the bike sharing services. Apparently the model has varied from city to city. Some cities consider being able to return a car to a different location a new feature, according to GreenBiz.

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Keywords: Environment | Christina B. Farnsworth | Ecotravel & Tourism | Green Builder Media | Lyft | Responsible Production & Consumption | Uber | Zipcar | carsharing | sharing economy

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