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Car Sharing Goes All-Electric in Brussels

Zen Car will bring 29 vehicles into circulation, edging out a larger effort that will be unveiled in Paris in the fall.

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It’s the green transport geek’s equivalent of a Superman-Batman comic: car sharing meets electric vehicles.

Next month, a company called Zen Car will launch an EV car-sharing scheme in Brussels, with support from a regional investment society. Twenty-nine cars are going into circulation, with about fifteen charging stations around the city. It costs 40 euros to join, plus a 6-euro monthly subscription and a 7-euro hourly fee for use. The cars are 100% electric, according to the helpful “Zen Car? C’est quoi?” information page.

Zen Car isn’t the only EV-for-hire service coming soon to Europe, though it may be one of the first. The Autolib’ Project in Paris will unroll a somewhat larger-scale project over the course of the coming year. In late December, it was announced that the electric Bluecar had won the market for the Autolib’ project, itself inspired by Paris’s bike-sharing service, Velib’. With Autolib’, some 3,000 cars will be available at about 100 hire points. The EV company Better Place has also experimented with EV car sharing in Denmark, where it partnered with a commuter train service to offer electric-cars-for-hire at train stations.

Could we see something similar soon in major American cities? To a certain extent, we already have. While we don’t appear to have broad, all-electric, government supported car-sharing fleets (Zen Car may ultimately be funded by the Belgian government), American car-sharing companies and startups have ventured into the EV market. Though Zipcar introduced an all-electric Citroen C1 into its fleet in 2009, hybrids are more common that full-on EVs, even in forward-thinking markets like San Francisco. A few weeks ago, Zipcar said eight new plugin hybrid electric Priuses would enter its fleet, meaning Zipcar customers would actually be beta-testing the car before it comes to market.

Could Zipcar learn from Zen Car, or vice versa? Regis Leluth of Zen Car tells Fast Company in an email that he once reached out to Zipcar, but “without success,” and that he has been especially impressed with Zipcar’s marketing. But he’ll have his own mobile advertisements on the streets soon, in the form of the cars themselves.

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[Image: flickr user david_megginson]

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.

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