Flexcar teams up with TerraPass to reduce carbon emissions

flexcar.gifIn TerraPass’ continuing quest for new approaches to reduce auto-related carbon emissions, we’ve become fans of Flexcar’s car-sharing service. We have used Flexcar to travel to meetings in the San Francisco Bay Area when public transit wasn’t readily available or bicycling wasn’t practical. Maybe you have seen the blue and white logo on Flexcars (mostly small, fuel-efficient cars — 30% of which are hybrids) driving around in your city or parked in urban settings.

Car-sharing is a revolutionary way to think about automobile use with many environmental benefits. Instead of incurring the capital cost of buying a car and the substantial operating expenses (insurance, maintenance, gas, and parking), you just pay an hourly fee (about $8 per hour) for your driving trips. You make a Flexcar reservation online, pick up a car at a convenient location, and you’re on your way. In this short video, my colleague Adam Stein shows how it works.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board reports that each car-sharing vehicle takes up to 15 private cars off the road. Seventy percent of respondents in a 2005 study said they postponed buying a car because of car-sharing. Half of those interviewed said car-sharing enabled them to sell an existing second car.

Taking cars off the road is a good thing. The savings in material costs and congestion are already a significant environmental benefit. But an important further consideration is how much actual fuel consumption is reduced by car-sharing.

Here also there are several reasons for encouragement. The first is that the average fuel economy of the Flexcar fleet is significantly higher than the average nationwide. The second is that the basic economics of car-sharing favor a reduction in driving. When you own a car, the major cost is sunk into the vehicle itself. Driving is relatively cheap. When you share a car, the vehicle is free — but you pay a fee for each trip.

This arrangement should encourage drivers to eliminate unnecessary trips, and indeed, surveys show that roughly half of Flexcar drivers report driving less after becoming members, with an average reduction of almost 40%.

Now Flexcar is partnering with TerraPass to balance the carbon emissions of its fleet. Starting this week, Flexcar members can sign up for a special Green Membership. For $9.95 per year, green members will reduce one ton of greenhouse gases through TerraPass’ support of wind farms, biomass, and landfill flaring projects. Flexcar has also offset its business operations. So consider swapping your car for a bicycle and a Flexcar membership. Car-sharing can be another powerful tool in the fight to address global warming.

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  1. James - June 20, 2007

    Wow…this sounds like a wonderful idea and one that requires a welcomed shift of how our culture views the automobile: ultimately just a way to get from point A to point B. I like it! And no more auto insurance bills, car payments, parking tickets! Imagine the possibilities.

  2. lkhoyt - June 20, 2007

    I’ll be interested to see if any of the existing rental car companies jump on this bandwagon. There’s no Flexcar within 800 miles of me, but if the Enterprice location a few blocks from my house were to offer a Flexcar-style service–with a membership fee and an hourly rate on no-hassle short rentals–well, I’d sign right up when my geriatric car finally shudders to its death. Those companies already have the infrastructure (the fleet of cars, the national websites, lots of local storefronts.)

  3. Anonymous - June 20, 2007

    Philadelphia has “Philly Car Share” http://www.phillycarshare.org/ which seems to be booming (seeing more & more of their cars around)!

  4. Jon - June 20, 2007

    Not sure why this is a big deal now. We have this in detroit, only sometimes people get pulled over and suddenly instead of being a way to “think green” its called Receiving and Concealing Stolen Property Motor Vehicle.
    But seriously, as great as this might be, it might still be worth something to think about investing in revolutionary Mass Transit.
    Thing about mag lifts.
    Google Marsden Burger and find the name of his company- and see the things he can do NOW for mass transportation.

  5. Christina - June 21, 2007

    As a FlexCar member in Chicago – I love it! I don’t own a car and mostly rely on my bike, trains and buses, but there are just some things that are easier to do with a car. I use it now mainly to do laundry and I do my grocery shopping while I have it, too. That way I could still avoid owning a car and dealing with all the costs associated with it (rising gas prices, yikes!) even though I live in an apartment that isn’t close to a laundromat or a grocery store.

  6. Anonymous - June 22, 2007

    Too bad this is hardly available anywhere yet — only in a few cities, and certainly not in any I have ever lived in! Hopefully more and more cities will start implementing this concept….

  7. Barbara - June 27, 2007

    From Portland: Letting go of my car was like letting go of a lifeline without knowing how to swim well, but Flexcar has worked REALLY well for me. The cars are parked near bus stops, so even if you don’t live near a Flexcar, you can bus to one. I love the $$ savings.