Monday, July 1, 2013

On the go with Car2Go

I've been looking for a better way after spending $10 – $15 each time I took a two-mile taxi trip from my place to downtown San Diego. Luckily, yesterday's San Diego celebration of Social Media Day was sponsored by Car2Go.

Car2Go lets you rent electric Smart cars by the minute, for only 38¢/minute with no minimum and the first two minutes are free. (Zipcar, a competitor to Car2Go, rents vehicles by the hour and their pricing seems more expensive and complex.) Additionally, you can drop off the car most anywhere in city. There's a $35 application fee and the most you'll pay per hour is $14 with a $73/day limit.

I was talking about this service with some buddies at this morning's San Diego Tech Coffee and they told me that the local office was only about ten blocks away. So, I hoofed it over to the Car2Go office and signed up. Normally, when you sign up it's a few days until you receive your RFID membership card in the mail. Since I walked into the office they issued my card on the spot. There was one slightly frustrating gotcha that involved obtaining a copy of my driving record, for $2, from the DMV. The DMV site was a little difficult to navigate on my iPad. Other than that, the process went smoothly. I paid my application fee and was issued a Car2Go card.

The receptionist took me out front and showed me the simple steps to get going. After a quick walk around the tiny car to check for damage, she showed me how to unlock it by placing my Car2Go membership card against the reader in the windshield which started the billing clock. Likewise, swiping your access card at the end of trip ends the billing cycle. Once I sat in the driver's seat I accepted a terms of service agreement on the display and then noted any damage while rating the interior and exterior for cleanliness.

The car key is stored next to the computer screen which I removed and placed in the ignition. I don't have much experience driving electric cars so I'll need to get used to the fact that when I place the key in the ignition and turn it, nothing happens other than the radio and air conditioner come on. Since it's all electric, the giddyup of a traditional car isn't there. Pressing on the gas pedal – I mean accelerator – has a small, but noticeable, amount of lag.

Reservations, Parking, & Refueling
The beauty of this service is that you can reserve a car 30 minutes ahead of time, via their website or smart phone app (there is no shortage of cars in my neighborhood after work hours), and you don't have to pay for parking. You can park in most any spot as long as it allows parking for more than an hour and the city parking enforcement officers don't ticket these vehicles. One other key stipulation is that there can't be a parking restriction within the following 24 hours such as a street sweeping. The city also has special electric vehicle parking spots. Additionally, the car comes with a refueling card so you can park it in specific parking lots with charging stations.

I'm in love with downtown driving now that getting there is half the fun. The only thing better will be when Car2Go has self-driving vehicles.

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