The Austin Chronicle

City Launches Car2go Service

By Jillian Richardson, May 20, 2010, 2:30pm, Newsdesk

The Environmental Protection Agency has presented the city of Austin with an award for conducting pilot runs with the car2go service. The program expands tomorrow with the start of public registration and a free launch party downtown.

This morning, EPA Region VI Air Planning Section Chief Tom Diggs presented Mayor Lee Leffingwell with the 2010 Clean Air Excellence Award in Transportation Efficiency Innovations for Austin's outstanding effort in reducing air pollution with the car2go service. Daimler AG, the firm behind the car-sharing program, chose Austin as their North American pilot city because of its progressive reputation and commitment to the environment. As Austin is the first city in North America to have this car service, it also serves as car2go's North American headquarters.

You may have seen these speedy little blue and white car2go smart cars zipping around town, gliding effortlessly into those impossible small parking spaces. Well tomorrow, May 21, car2go services will be officially open to the public. Car2go offers smart fortwo cars, the most fuel efficient non-hybrid vehicle, which are parked at various locations downtown. Once you register, these cars can be reserved in advance or just picked up along the street. With more than 80 pick up spots around town, the car is easily accessible and the car2go app locates the nearest available car to you. The best part is that you can park in any public parking space for free!

The city of Austin has been testing out car2go for 6 months now, using city employees and other volunteers as a pilot group. The cars garnered about 2,000 rentals per week, proving that these environmentally friendly cars were more than a perfect fit for the always forward-thinking Austin. As Leffingwell said today, car2go is an "essential compliment to mass transit".

I always wondered how two people could fit comfortably in a smart fortwo car, but after checking one out today I can report that they're surprisingly roomy. The car has a hidden compartment for storage and just enough room in the trunk for groceries or, as local musician and pilot scheme participant Sara Hickman reported in a video testimonial, a guitar. There's also a GPS system inside for the directionally challenged, like me, and a handy gas card is located in the glove box in case the car is running low.

Car2go is celebrating its public launch tomorrow night with a free event at Republic Square Park from 4pm to 10pm. There will be music, food, booths to register for car2go, and most importantly you can test drive one of these speedy smart cars.

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