Fit Your Next Car into Your Phone
DriveNow is a car-sharing program launched by BMW and European car rental company Sixt that allows you to locate and rent the nearest car within a given city’s limits via its website or mobile app. What sets DriveNow apart from other car-share services is you don’t need a reservation and you can park and leave the car anywhere you want rather than returning it to a home garage. You could rent a car for 20 mins to drive to work, end your rental, stay at work for eight hours, and rent another DriveNow car to go home.
This flexibility contrasts to services like ZipCar, which require you to make a reservation for a set amount of time and return your car to a specific garage (penalties fees are applied if you don’t return the car by the end of your period).
The service is BMW’s attempt to future-proof itself from the changing nature of car usage and ownership. With car ownership decreasing and urban-living on the increase, having a car that does 150 mph on the autobahn and is parked in your suburban garage will become increasingly irrelevant. Tomorrow’s driver will need a car that can handle 25 mph around town and be easily parked.
DriveNow is also connected with BMW’s upcoming i3 electric vehicle (pictured above), which is the company’s first EV geared specifically to city living. In the future, DriveNow will be connected to charging stations around a city for low-emission temporary urban transit.
Here’s the rub: DriveNow is almost exclusively in Germany, with locations in Munich, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Cologne. Currently, their fleets are internal combustion engines, which enables the flexibility of returns (i.e. you can park on the street rather than finding a charging station). Rates are €29 cents/minute for driving and €10 cents/min for parking. These rates include parking and gas; fuel levels are visible when you book your car. DriveNow also includes on their maps proximity to bike share stations.
They have one US location in the Bay Area, whose fleet is made up of BMW’s ActiveE, an all electric version of their 1 Series car. Because of the need to charge, you need to return the cars to one of the designated garages, though not necessarily the one where you picked the car up. All stations are located near BART stations. Rates are $12 for the first half hour then $.32 each additional minute and $90 for the day. There is a one time $39 registration fee.
Ideally, a service like DriveNow would be brand-agnostic–i.e. not attached to a particular carmaker. But we find the idea of on-demand, restriction-free car sharing pretty exciting. Imagine being able to rent any car parked on the street whenever you want. While the per drive expense is surely much greater than car ownership, the lack of overhead and flexibility seems well worth it. And with bigger fleets and costs spread out over more members, the per drive cost would likely go down while available cars increase.