Electric cars and car sharing go naturally together. Both aim to clean up the environment by reducing gasoline consumption.
With lower maintenance, electric cars are also easier to maintain for fleets than gas cars. Combined with gas cars, car-sharing fleets can also provide a backup for electric-car owners who want occasional access to a larger gas car for vacations or road trips.
Several car-sharing programs have launched with electric cars. Most recently, Volkswagen announced in July that its WE service will launch in Germany next year exclusively with electric cars and will follow in North America and Asia in 2020.
“We are convinced that the car-sharing market still has potential. Our vehicle-on-demand fleets will consist entirely of electric cars, and will therefore provide zero-emission sustainable mobility. This is an intelligent way to relieve the strain on urban areas,” VW board member Jürgen Stackmann said recently in Berlin.
VW isn’t the only car-sharing program from a major automaker to use electric cars. Mercedes-Benz Car2Go, BMW’s ReachNow, GM’s Maven, and Audi’s Audi-on-Demand all offer plug-in cars in at least some cities in North America.
Another service in Indianapolis, BlueIndy, uses exclusively electric cars made by French conglomerate Bollore.
Other automakers’ car sharing services also offer plug-in models in Brooklyn, New York (BMW ReachNow); Montreal (Mercedes-Benz Car2Go); Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles (GM’s Maven); and San Francisco (Audi-on-Demand).
These established services may give some indication where VW could launch its WE program in the U.S.
Car2Go originally launched exclusively with electric Smart cars in Austin in 2010, and quickly moved to include gas-powered Smart cars, so it’s not clear whether Austin would be a successful city for an electric car sharing service—or whether Austinites just wanted something bigger than the two-seat Smart fortwo.
Volkswagen ID concept, 2017 Los Angeles auto show
The city has a relatively dense network of public charging stations compared with other U.S. cities.
Vancouver, British Columbia, has been rated the car sharing capital of North America, according to a January study by Vancity.
Other cities where car sharing is popular and that have a high concentration of public charging stations include: Seattle; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; New York; and Washington, D.C.
Electric car sales so far have been concentrated in California and Oregon, though that may be changing this year with updated regulations governing electric-car sales.
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. have the densest network of public charging stations, according to data from Plugshare.com, so those would also make likely cities for a service such as VW's WE to launch.
Many companies like to launch new environmental-vehicle efforts in Washington, D.C., because it gets them national attention and can catch the interest of national elected officials. VW’s headquarters is also located in northern Virginia, in the Washington suburbs.
When VW brings its electric car-sharing service to North America in 2020, there are plenty of places where it could thrive.