Monday, November 10, 2014
Electric Vehicle Car Sharing Comes to Colorado
Last Saturday, a new entry in the Colorado car sharing market opened its doors, right here in Golden no less. eThos Electric Car Share bills itself as the nation’s first all–electric vehicle car sharing service. I'm not sure it's the first in the nation but first in Colorado will do. eThos, which opened its doors in a converted service station at the corner of 19th Street and Jackson Street runs much like most other car sharing services, except for its 100% EV fleet.
For those who are not familiar with car sharing, think auto rental but on an hourly basis. There are two basic types of car sharing services: business-to-consumer (B2C), which provides cars on an hourly or daily basis to business or individual consumers, and peer-to-peer in which an individual provides access to his or her personal vehicle to the renter, much like you might rent a vacation home from an individual owner. There is one other important distinction to be made between types of car sharing services and that is whether the vehicle must be returned to the point of rental (aka round-trip) or may be dropped off at a designated parking location (aka point-to-point, free floating, or one-way) whereupon it may be rented by another customer. eThos is a B2C, round-trip operation.
The Denver market has three B2C round-trip car sharing services – eGo CarShare (a nonprofit), Zipcar, and Enterprise CarShare – and one point-to-point service, Car2Go. Generally, their rates are similar starting at about $5 per hour at the low end and increasing from there, depending on the specific vehicle make and model. Hourly rates typically include gas, maintenance, and insurance though you can pay more for a waiver to cover the company’s deductible, just like with any car rental. Depending on the rate plan the customer signs up for, there may also be mileage charges and a membership fee. The three round trip services have a number of access points throughout Denver and a variety of different vehicles. Car2Go is unique in that its vehicles may be found parked at meters or other public parking spaces throughout Denver – wherever the prior renter leaves it. Car2Go apparently is intended to provide transportation only within Denver and has only Smart Cars – those little two-seaters sold by Mercedes Benz. The location of its 372 vehicle fleet can be found by checking their website or smart phone app.
So, how is eThos different? As noted, eThos requires that the vehicle be returned to its home base which, for now, is its sole location in Golden. None of the other car sharing services come out this far from central Denver or Boulder. But eThos’ main difference is that its fleet consists of only electric vehicles which, at the present time, includes 8 Codas (more on that in a minute) and one Tesla. Pricing is competitive with the other services at $7 per hour for up to 250 rental hours (for a Coda) down to $5 per hour for over 500 rental hours. The Tesla rents for three times the hourly rate of the Coda. Would I pay $21 an hour to drive a Tesla? No. Let me know when you've got an i8 and we can talk about it.
OK, so what’s a Coda? Coda Automotive was a California based EV manufacturer that had a short, inauspicious life. The company produced 5-passenger, 4-door EV sedans in 2012 and 2013 before succumbing to bankruptcy in May 2013. Built on a frame imported from China, the Coda includes a 31 kWh battery pack and a drive train supplied by Colorado’s own UQM Technologies (which coincidentally also started out in Golden as Unique Mobility, Inc. before moving to Longmont). At the time of its bankruptcy, the company had reportedly delivered only 117 vehicles. The remaining stock of 50 vehicles and 100 gliders (no powertrain) were purchased by a couple of remarketers and sold at deep discounts from the $38,000 MSRP (you can read more about them on Green Car Reports. Coda’s restructuring plan calls for it to morph into a provider of grid storage solutions.
eThos apparently acquired a dozen Codas (8 available and 4 awaiting delivery) and the one Tesla which comprise its current fleet. At the Grand Opening, I went down and took a short test drive in a Coda (I’m not yet cleared to drive the Tesla). It is a quiet, reasonable vehicle for getting around town though with a range of 100 miles or less and a 6-hour recharging time (Level II), you’re not going too far in it. So the market appears to be people who have a need for a vehicle to tool around for a half day or so which is pretty much the market for any other car sharing service. And, since my aging Vehicross seems to be giving me increasing trouble lately, I may need access to a car share so I signed up for an account ($50 membership fee that was waived on opening day plus a $25 DMV license check fee).
I had a chance to speak briefly with the firm’s two principals, founder Tim Prior and Assistant Manager Kathryn Saphire and wish them the best of luck with their new business. I think that Golden is going to be a challenging market for them, one that will be easier to access if they offer to pick up customers and bring them home after the rental (hint). On the other hand, Golden is a pretty techy community so hopefully it works as a launch point. Alas, it isn’t clear how they’re going to expand or replenish their fleet… unless there are more discounted Codas sitting around out there to be had. If so, they need to find a red one.