A new era in urban mobility begins Thursday, April 26, in Berlin. That’s when Daimler’s car2go subsidiary, the pioneer for fully flexible short-term car rentals, will launch its largest rental fleet worldwide within the framework of a joint venture with the Europcar rental company.
The new fleet’s 1,000 smart fortwo models will be available to Berlin residents around the clock over an area of approximately 250 km². A one-time registration is all it takes to pick up a smart, which can then be returned to any public parking space when the customer has finished using the vehicle. The new system is already in great demand in Berlin, as evidenced by the roughly 2,000 pre-registrations that have been submitted for car2go in Berlin to date. The launch of car2go in Berlin is being accompanied by the release of the first official car2go App for smartphones and the introduction of an “Eco Score” feature for all car2go vehicles worldwide. The Eco Score provides drivers with information on the environmental compatibility of their driving style via an onboard touchscreen display.
“We’re the number one company for innovative mobility services – a fact that’s underscored by the launch of car2go in Berlin,” says Klaus Entenmann, Chairman of Daimler Financial Services AG, which is responsible for car2go within the Daimler Group. “We also plan to link car2go more extensively with other modes of transport in the future, which means our customers will soon be able to quickly, simply, and flexibly draw up their own personal mobility plans using different transport modes.”
car2go is initially being launched in Berlin with 1,000 smart fortwo “car2go edition” models with conventional drive systems. The vehicles, which are equipped with a stop-start feature, air conditioning, and a navigation system, can be rented by registered customers within an area of approximately 250 km². Customers can drive the cars for as long as they want and then park them in any public parking space within the operating area. The car2go operating area includes the commuter rail ring around Berlin, the city’s nearby suburbs, the centers of Spandau and Köpenick, and the highly-populated areas Marzahn, Hellersdorf, Lichtenrade and Märkisches Viertel.
Customers pay a one-time registration fee of 9.90 euros; each time they rent a vehicle, they are charged a rate of 29 cents per minute that includes applicable taxes, insurance, fuel and parking costs, and the first 20 kilometers traveled. Whenever the car2go is left parked in between, the rate decreases to nine cents per parked minute. Discounted rates are available for hourly and daily use: A one-hour car2go rental costs 12.90 euros; the daily rental fee (24 hours) is 39 euros. Customers can also take advantage of free early car2go registration until the end of April at the car2go shop at Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 2 in Berlin’s Mitte district. All new customers are also eligible for a free 30-minute initial test drive.
The car2go program in Berlin is being operated in a tried and tested manner by a partnership involving car2go and Europcar – the car2go Deutschland GmbH joint venture. Europcar, the leading car rental company in Europe, is contributing its extensive fleet-management and logistics expertise to the joint venture and will also make part of its rental station network available for car2go consulting and registration services, beginning in mid-May. Customers who register for car2go will also receive a free Europcar partner card that allows them to rent vehicles from the entire Europcar fleet at very good rates (15 percent off the least expensive daily rate).
“Our successful partnership with car2go is now being extended to the German capital,” says Europcar Group Chairman Roland Keppler. “We’re very pleased to be part of the biggest car2go rollout to date and to be able to supplement its system for flexible urban personal transport with our fleet of vehicles for longer journeys and more extensive transport requirements. All of this ensures customers will be able to take advantage of a seamless range of options for their mobility needs.”
“The varied mobility patterns of Berlin residents and the great demand in the city for continually available and flexible personal mobility options make the capital an ideal market for new mobility services and programs like car2go,” says Michael Müller, member of the Berlin Senate responsible for Urban Development and the Environment. “Our plans to link car2go with the conventional public transport system will make the program an outstanding addition to traditional scheduled modes of public transport. We’re therefore very happy that car2go has finally arrived in Berlin and we look forward to the great experience we will all share with the system.”
The integration of car2go into a multimode overall concept will be implemented in cooperation with the Verkehrsverbund Berlin Brandenburg (VBB) and Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) transport companies and other partners shortly after the launch of the program. The cooperation possibilities here will range from joint information and sales campaigns (e.g. car2go registration at selected BVG customer centers) to special discounts for BVG customers and the establishment of intelligently networked information and billing systems.
“Buses and subways are the backbone of the local public transport system,” says BVG Chairwoman Dr. Sigrid Nikutta. “An intelligent link with supplementary services enables us to offer our customers the opportunity to choose and combine additional convenient options from the city’s various means of transport in line with their needs. Our goal here must be to set up a system that combines the entire product range in the form of a ticket or entry into a standardized information system. This will make it possible for Berliners and their guests to move through the city on buses and trains, by bike, or with a taxi or electric vehicle as needed. In this sense, car2go is an important partner for us as we move to transform our mobility vision into reality.”
car2go isn’t just forward-looking in terms of its multimode networking, however: As Berlin continues setting up its electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, the 1,000 conventional car2go models will be gradually supplemented/replaced by electric vehicles in the coming years. Current plans also call for initial electric car2go models to be integrated into the fleet this year for trial operations. The first 300 smart fortwo electric drive models will then begin normal car2go operations in 2013. The rate per minute for an electric car2go vehicle won’t be any higher than that for a gasoline engine model,which means car2go will make a major contribution toward ensuring electric mobility can be enjoyed by all.
Gernot Lobenberg, Director of the Berlin Agency for Electromobility eMO, is pleased with the developments to date and the prospects for the future: “We have set ourselves the goal of making Berlin a leading city for electric mobility in Europe, which is why it’s important for us to see that car2go is relying on electric vehicles as well from the very beginning.”
car2go customers will “grow trees”
The launch in Berlin is being accompanied by the release of a new car2go App for initial use with Apple smartphones. Up until now, car2go has made vehicle data available at an open interface in order to make it possible for independent developers to integrate the information into their programs. However, a special car2go program will offer many additional possibilities for further development in the future and links with other services.
The car2go launch in Berlin will also feature another world premiere in the form of an onboard touchscreen display that will enable users to view assessments of their driving style: The Eco Score monitors acceleration, braking-acceleration behavior, and coasting, and uses the data to calculate the effect of the driving style in question on fuel consumption and emissions. This calculation yields an environmental compatibility score of between 0 and 100, and depending on this score, three trees on the display will either grow or shrink, whereby the bigger the tree and the higher the Eco Score, the more favorable the impact on the environment. The first stage of the Eco Score program is purely for informational purposes, but it’s also possible that drivers with a driving style that is particularly environmentally friendly could be rewarded in the future by being issued free car2go rental minutes, for example.
car2go GmbH Chairman Robert Henrichs sums up the launch in Berlin and the availability of the new features as follows: “1,000 car2go vehicles for Germany’s capital and the clear signal being sent regarding the future of electric mobility are important milestones for us that also point the way forward for our company. car2go will definitely establish itself in the coming years as a leading and innovative program for on-demand mobility concepts. It’s also important for us that our mobility services continue to meet the most stringent demands and remain affordable, regardless of the drive system technology used in the vehicles. The Eco Score and the new App are important features that will enable us to integrate additional services into the network in the future and develop environmentally compatible mobility concepts that take the requirements of our customers into consideration.”
Text: car2go / Pictures: MB Passion