BMW will soon launch its first car-sharing program in the U.S., which features a fleet of 70 electric cars located around San Francisco, California. Drivers who join BMW's DriveNow program can pick up an ActiveE car, drive it for as long as they need, and then return it to one of the DriveNow stations.
The BMW scheme is very similar in operation to car sharing outfit ZipCar. Drivers who are at least 21 can apply to join the DriveNow program, and can then reserve an electric car online or through the BMW DriveNow smartphone app. Drivers simply wave a membership card to unlock or lock their rented vehicle. There are 14 DriveNow stations around San Francisco, including at Oakland and San Francisco airports. Another 100 locations are expected to be ready over the coming weeks.
Drivers pay $39 to activate their DriveNow membership, and then spend $12 for the first half-hour of car use. After that, drivers are charged by the minute at different rates, depending on whether they are driving or the vehicle is parked. Each car also includes an access card for the ChargePoint electric-car charging network, in case drivers need to top up the ActiveE's battery. BMW says that fully recharging the cars at the DriveNow station takes about five hours; eachhas a predicted driving range of 80 to 100 miles.
The idea behind the DriveNow program is to test and promote BMW's electric cars, as well as to help reduce the number of privately owned cars -- and thus traffic -- in San Francisco. BMW says the Californian city has about 448,000 parking spaces, but close to 540,000 vehicles on a typical day. That apparently means that drivers looking for parking spaces account for one-third of all traffic in the city.
To help with that aspect, BMW also is launching ParkNow, a smartphone app that lets drivers find, reserve, and pay for a parking space in advance from their phones. The app can then automatically send driving directions to the owner's BMW.
BMW already launched its DriveNow program in the German cities of Munich, Berlin, and Dusseldorf last year. San Francisco is only the first location in the U.S., and BMW plans to expand DriveNow to other regions at a later date. The program is part of BMW's ambitious Project i, which intends to put the i3 electric city car and i8 plug-in hybrid on sale within a year or two.
DriveNow will launch in September, while ParkNow is available now.The video below gives another overview of the two programs.