In its first year, the pilot program on the car2go Smart Fortwo car sharing program in Austin has registered 15,000 members and logged 100,000 rentals and more than 300,000 miles. That’s pretty impressive for a city where most people own and drive their own cars.
The program is so successful that car2go is adding another 100 vehicles for 2011, most of which will be solar-assisted Smart cars. These will have a 100-watt solar panel on the roof, which will power the telematics system while it charges the car's battery. This will help further reduce fuel consumption of the Smart, which already rates high on the EPA fuel efficiency scale. The Smart Fortwo is rated at 33/41 mpg, well below the 51/48 mpg of the best-selling Toyota Prius hybrid.
In addition, if the car2go is parked in the sun, the solar system powers the Smart’s ventilation system, to reduce the interior temperature. This makes the car more comfortable to start in hot climates, such as Texas. And since the car is cooler to begin with, less fuel is needed to air condition the car en route. Smart!
There are additional features of the new “car2go edition,” in response to requests by the program’s members. These include new hardware to help streamline the rental procedure, sturdier seats to hold up to the demands of round-the-clock renting and driving, and an upgraded radio and navigation system.
“The numbers have exceeded our expectations and encouraged other North American cities to look at Austin as a model when it comes to finding alternative solutions in reducing congestion and emissions," said Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go N.A.
Daimler, which builds and distributes the Smart car, has similar car2go programs in two cities in Germany, but there are no plans at this moment to add another North American city to the car-sharing pilot program.