Several years ago, a thoughtful energy guy & CleanTechnica reader here in Poland reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked about what me might be able to do to advance electric vehicles in Poland. We agreed electric carsharing seemed like a good path, but neither of us was in a position to launch into it. Eventually, 2016 rolled around and we met up in person and decided to give it a shot. I brought in another CleanTechnica reader & cleantech leader as well as a longtime friend who had been turned onto the positive side of the energy world and wanted to be yet another force for progressive change.
The four of us decided to kick off ELMO CarSharing. The funny thing is that right around the same time, the City of Wrocław (where I live) had decided to put out an RfP (Request for Proposals) to host an electric carsharing program. The plan was to start with a minimum of 200 electric cars, and while the city wasn’t planning to provide any direct funding, it was open to providing free parking spaces for electric cars, access to bus lanes, access to streets other cars couldn’t drive on, and some other soft benefits. (Well, I don’t know if all of those ideas were in mind when the RfP went out, but that’s what the city ended up providing to support a brand new electric carsharing program within its borders.)
No, ELMO wasn’t selected. We weren’t even set up to apply at that time. But I was happy to see that we weren’t the only ones enthusiastic about and working on the idea.
Interestingly, right after the Wrocław RfP, Poland’s two biggest cities — Warsaw and Krakow — reportedly started to pursue the same (electric carsharing programs with a minimum of 200 cars). Though, I haven’t heard where those efforts have landed, so I need to ask around and write a follow-up if something is moving forward.
In any case, that’s all a long intro to note that Wrocław now has an electric carsharing program loaded with ~200 Nissan LEAFs. As you can see above, it’s called Vozilla. It’s the company’s first carsharing effort, but I’m expecting it won’t be the last. The industry keeps growing and Poland is a hot new market for this trend.
This month, the Vozilla program lets you use a LEAF for 75 groszy per minute while driving and 10 groszy per minute while stopped. (That’s approximately 21 cents a minute and 3 cents a minute.) It’s a free-floating program — not station based — and you can unlock the car with a smartphone app. I’ve seen a few of the cars right here on our street in the past month (the program was launched in early November). I’ve yet to use Vozilla myself because the online registration process requires a Polish driver’s license and I use an international driver’s license here, but I may be able to get set up if I visit the Vozilla office (approx. 30 minute drive from here).
One more interesting thing about the program is how the company has decided to tackle the charging issue. There are 30 or so charging stations around Wrocław, but they are hit or miss with regards to uptime — and 30 stations certainly isn’t enough to support a 200-car electric carsharing fleet anyway. What I’ve been told is that Vozilla bought a number of charging stations and has staff go out to get the cars and charge them each night. That doesn’t seem like the best long-term solution, but it’s an interesting way to introduce a new technology (or two new types of technology — electric vehicles and carsharing). That doesn’t provide too much challenge for the customers, some of whom might be fine handling the charging but some of whom might not be prepared for it.
In the coming months, I’ll try out the program, share more details, and also interview users to get their feedback. I know some first-week users ran into some bugs with the app, but I’m going to optimistically assume those get worked out and the vast majority of customers end up very happy with the program. After all, they’re driving nice Nissan LEAFs at a super cheap price and enjoying all the benefits of electric cars. Let’s see.