In an effort to bridge the gap between the present era of gas-guzzling, emissions-heavy cars and a sustainable future where electric vehicles have taken the place of these environmentally damaging cars, many innovative car-sharing startups are springing up in the major cities of the world. With progress towards a fully electrified transportation network bound to be long and arduous, many residents of major urban centers are beginning to consider alternatives to private vehicle ownership. While many cities, particularly in Europe, already have expansive, well-established public transportation networks which serve the basic commuting needs of most urban residents, there remain situations, such as weekly visits to the supermarket, in which a car is simply the most logical solution.

In an effort to provide a solution to such situations, a number of companies have, over the past few years, begun offering short-term car rental services in urban centers. These car-sharing services provide residents with a suitable alternative to actually purchasing a car of their own when faced with gaps in the public transport network or the need for a more flexible transport solution. Such services generally operate on a registration basis, after which members have access to the service’s entire vehicle fleet for a flat hourly rate, charged upon actual usage. The available cars are often listed in an on online or mobile database which allows members to find the nearest available car whenever they need it. Following this, members need simply to get in, drive and leave the vehicle at their destination.

The number of car-sharing services has experienced a rapid expansion over the last four years, the market has kept pace with this expansion and the number of members is predicted to continue to increase. A 2010 study by market research firm Frost & Sullivan found that the car-sharing market is poised to continue its recent growth, reaching nearly 10 million members worldwide by the year 2016. The somewhat surprising popularity of these services has been attributed by analysts to a variety of factors including the introduction of new congestion and gas taxes, increasing urban congestion, making driving and parking in large cities a costly and unpractical option, as well as growing concern over the environmental sustainability of private transport. Regardless of the individual reasons which people may have for opting to register for car-sharing services, the shift away from private-vehicle ownership is beginning to build serious momentum.

While the growing popularity of car-sharing services is certainly a positive step in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions this does not mean that electromobility should take a backseat. In fact, some car-sharing services, such as the Daimler owned car2go service, are already combining the two goals, providing a truly viable solution for society’s future transportation needs. As these EV-sharing services continue to expand to new cities and grow increasingly popular over the coming years, the number of vehicles on the streets of the world’s cities will see a marked reduction and with this shift away from private ownership a truly notable step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More:

An article on the Wall Street Journal's Driver's Seat blog
An article at on car-sharing service RelayRides
An article on about GM's support for car-sharing
A newswire report on Hertz's car-sharing service
A post on the NY Times' Green Wheels blog about a Norweigan car-sharing service
An article in the NY Daily News about Volkswagen's car-sharing service
Report on autobloggreen about London's plans to introduce EV-sharing program 
A 2010 Frost & Sullivan study

A list of some of the car-sharing services:

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