BMW’s car-sharing service, called DriveNow, is adding 80 cars to its fleet in the Bay Area, and starting this month, it will offer street parking spots in the Mission District in San Francisco.
That means that you don’t have to drop the car off in a dedicated lot, as you would with, say, Zipcar. Instead, the car will tell you when you’re in an approved drop-off zone, which is between Potrero Avenue and Folsom Street and between 16th and 26th streets.
“We’re starting in certain streets in the Mission District, and on those streets, we only have to contend with street cleaning,” Dana Goldin, DriveNow’s chief marketing officer, told Business Insider. “So right now we’re avoiding meters and we’re avoiding residential permit areas.”
After you drop off the car, push the “End Booking” button, and all you have to worry about is avoiding a street cleaning ticket. You can also drop the car off in one of the 17 DriveNow stations, located around the Bay Area, including Palo Alto and both the San Francisco and Oakland airports.
“On the website, in the app, and in the car, you can view the DriveNow drop-off zone,” Goldin said.
And one-way dropoffs are allowed, which makes for a way cheaper ride than taking a taxi to the airport.
DriveNow charges a one-time fee of $US39; you then pay $US12 for the first half hour and $US0.32 for each additional driving minute. If you park or charge the car during the rental period, you only pay $US0.13 per minute. You can also pay by the day.
Let’s all just get along
Although it may seem that DriveNow is gunning after Zipcar, that’s not necessarily the case, said Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA. With Zipcar, you reserve the car further in advance and it’s up to the drivers to return the cars to the appropriate spot when their time is up.
But DriveNow allows you to use the car as you need it: you can book the car just 15 minutes in advance.
“We’re not necessarily giving you the same liability or guarantee that Zipcar does, but we give you the spontaneity,” Steinberg told Business Insider. “We believe the two services are complementary: their service makes sense in certain instances, and our services makes sense in other instances.”
Luxurious, eco-friendly cars
The fleet consists of 70 BMW ActiveE all-electric cars, which are based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe. They have a range of about 100 miles before they need to be charged.
I didn’t get a chance to test-drive the ActiveE, but I did get a chance to take the similar i3 out for a spin. The i3 is the next phase in BMW’s “Project i” program, which aims to develop a lightweight, eco-friendly electric car for city dwellers. People field tested and gave their feedback on the ActiveE, and BMW followed up with the i3.
The i3 offered a smooth ride and cool looks. The body is made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, and the inside is made of recycled and eco-friendly materials.
Looking forward, DriveNow looks to expand its number of cars, so that there could be a DriveNow car on every block. It just added 80 cars to its fleet, bringing the total to 150 in the Bay Area.
DriveNow and its street parking component is already a success in Germany, where they have around 2,350 cars in the fleet.
It wants to extend street parking to include areas of Bernal Heights, Haight Ashbury, Noe Valley, NOPA, Alamo Square, and Potrero Hill in San Francisco by 2014 — all parts of the city that allow DriveNow to stay within parking regulations.
“Street parking has been a challenge for us, because that’s our true business model,” Goldin says. “So we took a hybrid approach with having stations here first, and then we want to open up more street parking.”
DriveNow here in the U.S. is based on how it works in Germany, where there’s basically a car on every block. “Pretty much anywhere you are, you’re going to find a car,” Steinberg said. “And that’s the model we’re basing it on.”
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