I’ve never used a car sharing program in my life. I’ve been vaguely aware of the fact that they exist, but it was never anything I saw a real need to use; our transit system, while possibly a bit slow sometimes, still does its job just fine at getting me from A to B. But I was curious about Car2Go — the new, Daimler-owned car sharing company that launched in Toronto earlier this month. So I gave it a try.
It’s a unique program in that, unlike other car sharing companies, you’re not required to reserve a car ahead of time. Car2Go CEO Nick Cole doesn’t envision the system as anyone’s replacement for transit and other modes of transportation; instead, it’s meant to complement it. “It’s got to be convenient, it’s got to be flexible,” Cole says, “almost like going down the stairs to your garage, to your carport or your parking space to get into that car.”
The Car2Go fleet, consisting entirely of Smart fortwo cars, is located in Green P parking lots all over the city. By downloading an app onto your smart phone, you’re able to search for the closest car to you. Once you find one, a swipe of your membership card on the windshield will verify your account and unlock the door. You’re then charged by the minute for the time that you use. Rates are fairly reasonable: 35 cents a minute, $12.99 an hour, and $65.99 a day. The price includes gas — there’s a credit card with a PIN inside to use when you fill up — and as a reward for stopping and doing that, you’ll earn free driving minutes. There’s also a card inside to pay for Green P parking lots. And, once you’re finished, you don’t have to return the car to where you picked it up from; you’re free to leave it at any Green P parking lot of your choosing within their home area.
While Car2Go seems like the answer to short trips across the city, its lack of space in the vehicle makes it impractical for picking up anything bigger than a few bags of groceries. And being relatively new, there are many vehicles conveniently located right now, but if several people make impromptu decisions to grab a car for 30 minutes to do some shopping, that vehicle you spotted on your app may have already disappeared by the time you get to it.
When I used the car, though, I was impressed at the way the Smart fortwo drives; it offers the option to drive both automatic and manual. Being an automatic person, I switched into that and found it handled well, and easily navigated the streets of Toronto. The car is very driver-friendly; a built-in GPS shows where you’re driving to and makes it easy to plan routes or see the next parking lot ahead. There’s also an EcoScore app built into the system, so that as you’re driving, you can see how environmentally friendly you are being. It has marks for acceleration, cruising and deceleration. The better you do, the higher your score. I drove for awhile on Bloor and up and down some streets in the area before pulling into another parking lot and jumping on to the subway to make my way back home, making my entire trip easy, convenient, and eco conscious.
Car2Go was created by Daimler North America Corp. in 2009 and has since launched in 11 cities worldwide. Vancouver just had another 100 cars added to its fleet due to popularity after introducing the service last year, and the company is launching in Calgary within the next couple of weeks. Cole says they’re seeing an increase in usage and they feel very welcome in Canada already, despite the fact that many cities (including Toronto) already have other car-sharing fleets.
“We’re excited to be here,” he says. “It makes a lot of sense to be here. The growth here you see — the buildings going up — it’s amazing. There are some cities still doing very well in the US, but there’s a lot of growth here that I think is a good opportunity.”