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Published on March 13th, 2015 | by Tina Casey


Ford’s London Car Sharing Experiment Draws Electric Vehicle Fans Out Of Hiding

March 13th, 2015 by  

Ford launched a new carsharing experiment in London earlier this month, and the company just dropped us a note to let us know how things are going. In just a few weeks the data already points strongly to a trend that doesn’t surprise us: while most users start off with a gasmobile, they quickly switch to an electric vehicle and never go back to gas.

Actually, it kind of does surprise us. A while back our sister site Gas2.org noted that electric vehicle (EV) use in rental car fleets was not taking off as expected, at least not here in the US. So the success of EVs in an urban carsharing model must be tapping into something new…

Ford London car sharing

EV Carsharing: Follow The Money!

… or something old, as the case may be: just follow the money. When Gas2.org looked at EV rentals in the US, the general model was to charge a hefty premium for the EV. That makes sense considering the relatively high price tag on EVs compared to gasmobiles in today’s market, but the effect is to treat a mid-range EV like a high-end ride. That’s a serious turnoff for rental drivers, unless they’re super EV-curious.

Ford’s carsharing model stomps all over that obstacle. Called City Driving On-Demand, the London carsharing experiment provides only two choices of vehicle and one flat rate. So, for 17p (26 cents US) per minute, you can get an all-electric Ford Focus or a Ford Fiesta gasmobile.

The Fiesta comes with Ford’s high-efficiency, award-winning EcoBoost powertrain, but still, it’s a gasmobile.

According to our source at Ford, it looks like carsharing users start off with the more familiar ride while they learn how to use the app (more on that in a second), and then once they’re comfortable with the system, they’re ready to experiment with an EV… never to return to gas.

A New App For Urban Car Sharing

Since both carsharing and ridesharing have been around for a while, if Ford is going to crack into that market it will have to offer something new, and that’s what City Driving On-Demand aims for.

The mobile app–based service lets you register as a member for free, reserve a car, get directions to the nearest car, and pay for it. The key to the system is a pay-by-minute model and no extra charge for one-way trips.

Another twist that Ford offers is guaranteed parking, so for those of us familiar with the way that urban street parking contributes to pollution and congestion, that provides a big incentive for urban drivers to carshare rather than own.

That leads to the question, why would Ford encourage more potential car buyers to share rather than own. We’re thinking that Ford sees the writing on the wall in terms of urban mobility, with individual ownership continuing a downward drift. Engaging drivers and riders in carsharing and small-scale vans (check out Ford’s Dynamic Social Shuttle, for example) is one way to keep selling into the megacity market.

If you’ve had an EV rental or carsharing experience to share, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, right now, there are 50 cars in Ford’s London fleet, evenly divided between the Focus Electric and the Fiesta. Ford expects to launch a beta version later this month, so we’ll give you an update when we get more news.

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Image Credit (screenshot, cropped): Courtesy of Ford Motor Company. 

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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