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Owning a car is great, you have total freedom to get where you want when you want. But when you add up insurance, road tax, congestion charges and maintenance, let alone fuel, it doesn’t sound so attractive. You could take the bus, but you need to get there on time, and black cabs are expensive – if you can find one.
If only there was a way to use a car for a single journey, like into work, and just leave it there. Pick up another one for your after-work trip to the gym. Pay for the time you use the car, and let someone else bother about the hidden charges of car ownership. There is – car2go is already in 21 cities worldwide and now it’s coming to London.
Car sharing is a new concept in the UK, but it’s been around for decade on the Continent – Berlin has the most car-sharing vehicles in the world. Traditional car clubs in the UK offer a similar service, but they’re station-based, requiring members to pick up and return vehicles in designated bays. This may not suit the spontaneous user who needs a car at the last minute. Or someone who wants to make a single journey from A to B.
With the widespread use of smartphones and GPS apps, car2go can offer a flexible, one-way service for the first time. Their fleet of 500 Daimler Smart cars are parked on the street, with keys inside, all over the city. Members use a smartphone app to find the car nearest to them, and instead of returning to the original pick-up spot, they can park in any agreed on-street parking space whenever they’re done with it. Members are only charged for the amount of time they use the car.
Lifetime membership is currently free (usually there’s a one-off membership fee of £29.90), there’s no monthly membership fee and charges are priced to offer value for short journeys. At just 35p a minute, with a maximum of £14.90 an hour (£59 a day), what you pay includes fuel, parking, insurance, congestion charge and maintenance.
Matt Craven, an advertising executive based in the City, gave up owning a car nine months ago. When he wants to drive to work in the morning, he checks his smartphone to find the nearest car2go and takes it. When he gets there, Matt parks the car on the street and forgets about it. He relies on car2go to get around London when he needs a car. ‘You don’t always need a car in London,’ said Matt as he parked around the corner from his office in Finsbury Circus, ‘but I like the option to access a car whenever I need one. To get to work, for business meetings, going out to a bar. I like the flexibility and because it’s one-way.’