There is a lot to say about those white and blue Car2Go Smart cars cruising around the city, one of those things is definitely 'useful'.
Car2Go is a car-sharing system that is located in twentyfive major cities like London, Berlin, Washington, Milan and Amsterdam. You pay per minute that you use the car and good behaviour is rewarded with free minutes. I have been using car2Go in Amsterdam now for six months and will share my thoughts with you.
Maybe the farmost best aspect of this service is that you actually have the feeling you own a car in the city, without paying thousands of euros, no need to worry about insurance, and no hassle for the maintenance.
The two persons car itself is ideal for short commuter trips between your house, train stations, work and visiting friends on the other side of town. The car is also very good at transporting large things like suitcases, fragile packages and of course birthday cakes! Usually stuff which is hard to transport on the bicycle.
Knowing that you're almost always 5 to 10 minutes away from a car in Amsterdam is really what makes this service so convenient. Furthermore, the car is one of the easiest cars I have driven, no clutch, no shifting gears just simply (un)plug and play.
There is a lot left to improve in the overall experience of using Car2Go. First of all, the dashboard, which has built in navigation and radio, does not give you an option to turn the radio off but still hear the navigation. It’s either both or neither. The Navigation is outdated, even when it’s just a city the system has to take into account there is a lot of information missing like months long construction sites and closed roads. There is no feedback during or after the trip of the minutes or costs you made. So it’s always an unpleasant surprise when you get the invoice weeks later. I would appreciate some more transparency here about the costs I make.
I also had some really bad experience with the support centre. In September 2013, when I had a meeting at my work I chose to take Car2Go because the public transport would not be fast enough. The car that was nearest to me was 45% full and the distance would take about 15~20%. Which is good, cause when you are below 30% you get 20 minutes free for your next ride.
When I arrived at my work with a battery level of 25% I parked at the nearest charging pole to receive those free minutes. One of the plugs was being used and the other was free, so after parking there and following the steps explained on the pole I tried to charge the car but it didn't work! After calling customer service and telling me the problem was with the charging pole, they advised me to try an other pole. The next one was even further away from my work but now I really wanted those free minutes since the whole situation took over 20 minutes extra already.
When I arrived at the next charging pole I tried the same as before but again without any luck. I wanted to call customer service again but the connection dropped three times in a row after a few minutes of explaining the situation. Finally I got a hold of them and they made it clear that the customer service could not help me, so they forwarded my call to the technical support and just as they forwarded me the call dropped, again! You can imagine that at this point I was very frustrated and couldn't care less about those free minutes, but it got worse. I decided to just park the car and run to my work because at this time I was almost 45 minutes late. Because you are not allowed to park in a electric car spot if you're not charging I decided park it just a little bit closer to my work. As I put the car in reverse and drove out of the parking spot the battery fell below 19% and if this happens you HAVE to connect it to a charging pole. Can you believe this?! When I got and read this notification on the dashboard I couldn't do anything else but laugh.
I just decided to park the car right next to my work, call the customer service, explain the situation and ask them if it's ok if I park it and charge it after my meeting. But sadly it wasn't as simple as I thought. First they said it's not possible, but after I got really frustrated, they said that there is only one way, that they remotely lock the car. First they needed the exact address, then I had to step out of the car, wait for 10 minutes and check if the remote lock was successful. I agreed but only if I pay for the minutes I actually used the car, not the approx 90 minutes I stood still, waited and called with customer service. The customer support said that they will check how much time I stood still and won't charge me for it. So I accepted the situation as it was, stepped out the car, waited for 10 minutes, walked to work and said sorry to my boss for being almost two hours late...
AND THE SUSTAINABLE
The sustainable value of this service is very high, it's not just an electric, small car with a low carbon footprint but the most environmentally sustainable aspect is that the 200+ cars are being shared by a LOT of people who otherwise would together use more than 2000+ personal cars.
Just making a product that is sustainable will not do the trick, it's about changing peoples behaviour that will really make a difference. And the interface of the Car2Go have a funny way of doing this. They will show you three trees in the 'score' section of the interface, for acceleration, cruising and deceleration. The better you drive the nicer the trees will look. If you drive really bad there will be nothing but a sad piece of a tree trunk.
Short User Interview
I did a short (Dutch) interview with an other user. Audio is not so good but it will give you a good idea how the system works.
The design of the service lacks certain qualities to get a higher score.
I mean it’s an electric shared car, what do you want more?
They recently bumped the price up to €0.31 per hour, which I think is really too much. Public transport still beats Car2Go in a long run.
• It would be awesome if Car2Go would give every user 30 bonus minutes on their birthday to get the cake safely to work or home. It would be a very small token of appreciation from the company which would mean a lot to the users.
• Currently the app is solely useful to locate a Car2Go, but the app could show more information like your latest drive, your highest and average scores and general account info.