2012-10-24

Co.Exist

Electric Vehicle Car Clubs Let Hesitant Drivers Get A Taste Of A Gas-Free Life

Old habits die hard. Visiting a gas station for $90 weekly fill-ups may be one of them. But new services are helping people dip their toes in the EV waters before taking the full no-gasoline plunge.

The sales of electric vehicle sales are rising. They’re now on track to hit 400,000 annually by 2020, and a slew of new all-electric models from VW, BMW, Audi, and Toyota are poised to enter the market as carmakers race to meet new federal rules that require doubling their fleet average fuel economy by 2025.

While it seems electric and hybrid vehicles are here to stay, sales are still well below the 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015 targeted by President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address. Since passing the Recovery Act, the U.S. government has invested $2.4 billion in three electric vehicle factories in Tennessee, Delaware, and California, as well as $2 billion in matching grants for 30 factories that produce batteries, motors, and other EV components. Within a few years, the funding should give the U.S. the capacity to produce the goal of churning out the 1 million electric cars.

Demand for such vehicles, however, is still lagging behind. Priming the EV market as the sector moves beyond early adopters to curious potential customers will need to be a central part of any electric car strategy. There’s plenty of interest: One in 10 of today’s new-vehicle owners are contemplating an EV for their next car.

Yet few have much experience with them. For those on the fence, electric car clubs are now springing up in Europe and the U.S. to help make the decision (and replace your current automobile). The U.K.'s club for the EV-curious, E-Car Club, gives its members access to an all-electric fleet of Renault’s Zoe, Nissan’s Leaf, and Renault’s Kangoo Maxi. At prices similar to car-sharing services in the U.S. ($8.80/hour), the E-Car Club members in the city of Milton Keynes can travel between 95 and 120 miles per charge, and test out some of the newest electric vehicles.

"We believe E-Car is being launched at a very exciting time for motorists, as many want to experiment with driving an electric car before they make the decision to own one," said company chairman Andrew Wordsworth in . "We hope to grow the E-Car network over the coming months."

Here in the U.S., existing car-sharing services and government fleets are transitioning over to electric vehicles. ZipCar will roll out Honda Fit EV battery electric vehicles next year for public use in San Francisco, and nonprofit car-sharing services such as CityCar Share are doing the same. BMW has launched its DriveNow car-sharing service for urban EV rentals (after starting in Germany) with an initial fleet of 70 ActiveE vehicles available in San Francisco at price schemes similar to ZipCar’s. City, state, and federal car fleets are also licensing ZipCar’s technology to turn their automobiles into green, electric vehicle fleets in Houston, Washington, D.C, Chicago, and Boston. Perhaps one day of driving with a silent engine under the hood will start to push EV adoption higher.

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