Can Electric Vehicles Help Zipcar Attract Customers? 0

Zipcar (NASDAQ:ZIP) has officially launched its first large-scale electric vehicle program in Chicago.

Zipcar, a membership-based car sharing company with over 673,000 members in North America, to this point has been predominately using traditional gas-powered cars, with some hybrids sprinkled in mix. With competition ranging from car-sharing services like Connect by Hertz to newer (and cheaper) peer-to-peer services like RelayRides, the introduction of electric vehicles just changed the game.

Zipcar initially introduced five Chevrolet Volts into circulation as part of the electric vehicle (EV) pilot program in Chicago last year. This year, Zipcar plans to add 20 more EVs to its fleet. The Volt can travel gas-free for about 30 miles and an additional 375 miles with a gas generator that produces electricity. The new EVs will be available in pods scattered around the city with reservations starting at $10 per hour.

Perhaps the biggest problem with EVs in an urban setting has been the charging station infrastructure. The growth of EVs has been hampered by the lack of charging stations. However, these car-sharing companies have spent a significant amount of time and money into creating a viable infrastructure. Zipcar, for instance, is teaming up with 350Green for this installation venture with stations being planned for commercial buildings, residential buildings, private parking lots and along popular travel routes.

However, Zipcar isn’t the only EV game in Chicago. A small non-profit car-sharing company I-GO launched a $2.5 million electric vehicle project last December. I-GO’s 36 EVs are actually solar powered and can be charged at any of the 18 solar-powered charging stations around the city.

Let the games begin.

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