BMW including carsharing access with vehicle purchase to encourage small electric vehicle sales

August 5, 2013

bmw-carsharingLast week, BMW announced a new program to help bolster the sales of its electric vehicles: the ability to bundle carsharing access with the purchase of a vehicle. This was along with the unveiling of their first mass-production electric car, the i3.

Most drivers use their car for solo driving with limited range (less than 150 miles) most days of the year. However, they purchase vehicles based on their estimated “peak” usage: things like driving guests around, road trips to Tahoe, hauling furniture. These peak uses likely only occur a few times per year, the rest of the time their driving profile fits perfectly with what an electric vehicle supplies.

These peak uses give people range anxiety and space anxiety – however with the addition of easy-to-use carsharing vehicle owners can “right-size” their vehicles for most of the trips while still having access to higher capacity vehicles (SUVs) when they need them.

This program has the potential to introduce carsharing to many people who haven’t considered it in the past. Its possible that some of them may find carsharing so convenient that they give up on vehicle ownership entirely and switch to carsharing (plus transit, biking and walking) for 100% of their trips.

Its also possible that other car companies will start to offer carsharing options to compete with BMW. More carsharing options exposes more people to the ability to carshare, and will likely reduce vehicle ownership, VMT or at least allow people to “right size” their vehicle purchases. As the Atlantic pointed out, there is no reason why a car dealership or car company couldn’t start bundling Zipcar memberships right now in cities where carsharing options already exist.

BMW already has experience operating carsharing services. Their Drive Now carsharing services are available throughout Germany and expanded last year to San Francisco. The Drive Now service operates like Zipcar, but allows one-way trips and has airport locations as well, all while driving a BMW.

Pricing for BMW’s carsharing add-on has yet to be announced.