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‘Free2go’ bike rack has promise – but will get you kicked off Car2go

Posted by on August 2nd, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Designer Ryan Battle with his creation.
(screenshot from Kickstarter.com)

An ultraportable $99 bike car rack designed to let people combine bike trips with Car2go’s floating carsharing service was unveiled Thursday afternoon on Kickstarter. It’s an undeniably neat idea.

The new product’s mastermind fails to mention an important fact in his enthusiastic video, though: his unauthorized product could get your Car2go account permanently suspended.

“If you put a rack on the car2go for any bike, you are violating the terms and conditions, and you are at risk for losing your membership,” Car2go spokeswoman Katie Stafford told us in a June phone interview about the forthcoming independent product, dubbed “Free2go” by its creator Ryan Battle.

The main reason Car2go forbids such products, Stafford said, is that the company feels that any detachable racks would be unsafe on the road.

“With the slightest bit of misinterpretation about how the bike rack is attached to the car … the bike flies off of the car,” she said. “If it’s designed for one bike and people add two bikes to it — if there were two bikes attached and one fell off, then who’s responsible for that?”

Moreover, Stafford said, Car2go’s insurance policy for its vehicles is written with the assumption that they won’t have any external attachments. Car2go could renegotiate its policy, she said, but has no plans to do so.

Here’s what Free2go looks like. It’s small and light enough to be carried everywhere in a backpack, or a bike’s saddle bag:

The Free2go prototype (image by Ryan Battle)

Battle, for his part, denies that Car2go is actually opposed to the invention he’s been working on for the last two years.

“I met wither Nicholas Cole, CEO of Car2Go, during a signup event here in Austin last month,” Battle wrote in a June email to BikePortland. “While he did touch on the insurance concerns he didn’t indicate there would be any blowback to customers either. He further indicated to me that he would help me get the word out to all members.”

Stafford, asked to comment on Battle’s claim, said that Cole had extended no such offer, and that Battle must have misinterpreted.

She added that Car2go’s anti-bike-rack policy is not theoretical and will be enforced.

car2go in the wild

A Car2go in Portland.
(Photo J.Maus/BikePortland)

“We have staff in each of the cities, and we have fleet team members who are constantly out in the home area monitoring the fuel level of the cars,” Stafford said. “It’s very easy for us to see a car that has a bike rack on it; It’s easy for us to see the license plate; it’s easy for us to see who’s driving the car.”

Stafford said that if a Car2go user were involved in a collision while driving a car with the bike rack on, they would not necessarily lose insurance coverage for that incident, but would be subject to a possible exclusion from Car2go.

Here’s the passage of the Car2go terms and conditions that the company says forbid the use of external bike racks: a ban on “personally performing or authorizing repairs or any conversions on or to the car2go vehicle.”

This odd situation is especially heartbreaking because there’s no question that Austin-based Car2go, which launched in Portland last spring, has enjoyed rapid growth since and is rapidly expanding around the country, is missing out on a big share of the market by making it so difficult to combine its one-way carsharing trips with bike trips.

“Free2go is the missing piece that connects all the dots and allows people to shift seamlessly from one method of transportation to the next,” Battle says in his video pitch for his product.

In an email Thursday, Battle said that Free2go racks are safe for cars, bicycles and users alike. If a Car2go member is “retaliated against” for using Free2go, Battle said he “will, on a case-by-case basis, allow the purchaser to return the product for a full refund.”

Stafford (who, in what we assume is an unrelated decision, left Car2go effective yesterday) didn’t write off the possibility that the carsharing company will one day allow bike racks, as its competitor Zipcar does on some of its vehicles.

“That’s something that we’ll continue to study in the terms and conditions,” she said.

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  • q`Tzal August 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Looks like the title should be: “Free2go bike rack has promise – but will get you kicked off Car2go”.
    Seemed circularly confusing at first.

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  • merlin August 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    I joined Car2Go as soon as it showed up in Seattle – but have hardly used it since I’m always on my bike and not being able to take the bike along negates the whole leave-the-car-wherever-you-want one-way trip thing. Free2Go would be perfect for me.

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    • Ryan Battle August 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      merlin, I love the way you think. Live how you want to live. Support us. We’ll stand by you.

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  • dwainedibbly August 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Bad move, Car2Go.

    Does Zipcar have prohibitions against racks? (I know the idea behind Free2Go is that the cars are identical, so 1 rack model can easily fit all, vs Zipcar where the cars vary.)

    If I use a Car2Go, can I just cram my bike into the front seat, maybe by reclining the passenger seat?

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    • Joseph E August 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      “Can I just cram my bike into the front seat, maybe by reclining the passenger seat?”

      If you have folding bike. Regular bikes won’t fit.

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      • Ryan Battle August 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        Joseph, Agree with you here. I don’t want a folding bike and I don’t want to CRAM the bike I love anywhere. Hence, we have Free2Go for folks like us.

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      • Tom M August 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

        I know for a fact that a Brompton will fit in the back “trunk” area. I know a person who does just that wih their Smart car.

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    • BIKELEPTIC August 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      I dont know what zipcar’s regulations are on the cars that dont have racks, but the thing is that bikes will fit INSIDE their vehicles and on the website even advertise the storage capacity of each vehicle including “this one will fit a bike, three suitcases and two people etc) – I would never sign up for a Car2Go because any trip that I could do with that, I could do with a bike, carrying the same amount of cargo. To me, C2G is useless.

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      • Craig Harlow August 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm

        I know Zipcar users who routinely fit a bike in the back seats of Zipcars, merely be removing the bike’s front wheel. Caution, though, about tearing or grease-smearing the upholstry.

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        • Ian October 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

          I have put up to two bikes in the bike of a Car2Go…but I just hook the bottom bikes pedal between the trunk and hatch, leave the hatch open and hold onto the wheels to make sure the bikes don’t fall out. Works for me. But I like the idea of this bike rack…I’ve been bugging Car2Go to come up with a solution for bikes.

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      • Larry August 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

        I can’t fit any of my bikes in the back without removing the seatpost and both wheels. If I have a passenger, its a tight fit unless I remove my handlebars, too. My commuter bike, which has fenders, is a no-go.

        I live in Austin, and I was really excited when I heard about the free2go rack. I’ve been asking the car2go folks for years to think about bike racks, because its basically useless to me as a service unless I can take my bike with me. Looks like they’ve prioritized other things. Oh well.

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  • dwainedibbly August 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    How much you want to bet that Car2Go (or Mercedes-Benz, who own Smart) is going to steal the idea and offer a similar rack, if not for Car2Go users, then as an option for Smart owners?

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    • Ryan Battle August 3, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      This is a risk to any small inventor. When I met with them in 2010 i had them sign an NDA. I know, its Daimler-Chrysler for gosh sakes, they can do (and will do) whatever they want. However, I saw a need, so I went for it.

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  • Paul Cone August 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I’m pretty sure I saw a woman one day loading a bike (front wheel removed) into the back of a Car2Go.

    Also, they have lousy customer service.

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    • Bjorn August 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      really I have always found the customer service to be good. What specific problem did you have? They have credited my account when I had trouble getting my card to work, and were friendly on the phone when I called to report that one of their cars had been vandalized in front of my house.

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      • Greg August 4, 2013 at 10:53 pm

        Agreed. Car2go has been helpful every time I’ve interacted with them. Recently, a car wouldn’t let me check in, and they credited my account 30 minutes.

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  • JM Palacios August 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve loaded bike racks onto plenty of normal rental vehicles. Kind of a pain to carry on my bike to the car, but doable on an occasional basis. I really like this concept. If none of the other rental agencies have concerns with bike racks, why should Car2GO? Just don’t scratch it, and where’s the harm? They need to update their policy.

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  • spare_wheel August 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    30 seconds: remove wheels, unscrew handle bar.

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  • Jason Brune August 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I know from personal experience that 20″ wheel folding bicycles fit in the back cargo areas of Car2go.

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  • Jake August 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    These are cool, I like how they resemble pedals. He should market these to smart car or at least to their North American dealerships.

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    • Paul Cone August 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      Daimler, which makes the Smart car, which is the model of car that is used by Car2Go, also OWNS Car2Go.

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  • kittens August 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    I gave up on Car2Go a while ago. Service was too spotty to end/begin drive, website and app buggy, poor customer service and vehicle placement.

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  • jim August 3, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Why not just get a folding bike and put it inside?

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  • Curtis J. August 3, 2013 at 5:06 am

    I dont know what zipcar’s regulations are on the cars that dont have racks, but the thing is that bikes will fit INSIDE their vehicles and on the website even advertise the storage capacity of each vehicle including “this one will fit a bike, three suitcases and two people etc) – I would never sign up for a Car2Go because any trip that I could do with that, I could do with a bike, carrying the same amount of cargo. To me, C2G is useless.

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    • BIKELEPTIC August 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

      help me. Eleven after after I post, if someone copy/pastes my exact comment is that plagiarism or just lack of creative commentary?

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      • Opus the Poet August 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm

        Sounds like a ‘bot trying to establish itself as a legitimate user so that future spam posts are allowed without human intervention. I get them all the time on my blog. Sometimes they even copy and paste from the article they are posting to.

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  • todd August 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Two Bromptons fit in the back of a Car2Go. Clever Cycles offers $50 off Brompton luggage to Car2Go members. Disclosure: I get $0.37 every time somebody accepts offer.

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  • BIKELEPTIC August 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    what I can’t figure out is how the bike is attached higher up – it doesn’t seem to be anywhere – just at the wheels. I am no engineer, but just attaching it to the car at the wheels (I watched the video) – seems like really wobbly center of gravity, even if tightly cinched down and I could possibly see the entire bike flop over. Maybe I am missing something.

    That’s not to say I am not definitely in FAVOR of rental/car share having access to having bike access to make them more accessible.

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    • Ryan Battle August 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Please take a look at our kickstarter for details on the strapping system that solves the concern you have. Thanks!

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      • wsbob August 4, 2013 at 10:37 am

        In words or otherwise, where is it explained on your kickstarter, about how the strapping system secures and stabilizes the high side of the bike?

        “…The main reason Car2go forbids such products, Stafford said, is that the company feels that any detachable racks would be unsafe on the road.

        “With the slightest bit of misinterpretation about how the bike rack is attached to the car … the bike flies off of the car,” she said. “If it’s designed for one bike and people add two bikes to it — if there were two bikes attached and one fell off, then who’s responsible for that?”

        Moreover, Stafford said, Car2go’s insurance policy for its vehicles is written with the assumption that they won’t have any external attachments. Car2go could renegotiate its policy, she said, but has no plans to do so. …” andersen/bikeportland

        First paragraph of the above excerpt: Without Car2go spokeswoman Katie Stafford’s exact words, I’m skeptical that the company really believes “…any detachable racks would be unsafe on the road. …”. There seems to be many models and brands of racks that are detachable from motor vehicles they’re mounted upon, and that apparently can be safe for use on a car moving down the road. Most likely, Car2go is well aware of this.

        The company’s concerns about user misinterpretation of attaching and using the bike rack, seem valid. Manufacturers introducing new products deal in part with this type of concern, through the use of a varied range product testing. So for example, if it could be shown to Car2Go that this particular bike rack product had been test used by, say…25-50 different types of people, successfully mounting rack to SmartCar, and bikes to rack, with the car subsequently driven over a wide range of road conditions…rough, smooth, fast slow, dark, light, windy, rainy, snowy, etc. … with no bike having fallen off the rack…that could be persuasive towards the company welcoming use of the rack on its cars.

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  • Ryan Battle August 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Hey Mike,
    As I said in my last email to you. I stand by my product and I encourage anyone who chooses to use it with a Smart Car has a problem with the leasing company to contact me. I still have my membership and have been to many events showing off my product. Common sense says that if a person chooses to treat their bike, the car and the others on the road with respect that it would quickly turn into a PR nightmare if any ill will were to come to them. Appreciate your desire to protect your readership but your slavish regurgitation of big company speak without taking a moment to ‘think about it’ doesn’t serve them very well. Also, could you correct the image in your report of the product? What you show is an early prototype, not the version offered on Kickstarter.
    All the best,
    Ryan Battle
    Free2Go Inventor

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  • RH August 3, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I can understand why car 2 go does this. I’ve been behind 2 cars where bikes have fallen off their racks because they were put on wrong.

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  • Braaainz August 3, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Does the rack handle recumbents?

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  • Ian August 3, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    pretty simple – ZipCar it is

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  • Beth Hamon August 4, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Even simpler — skip the car, ride everywhere and when you must travel out of town either rent a bike or take one with you.

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    • maxadders August 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Simpler yet: drive everywhere, but claim to be car-free when posting comments on the internet.

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  • Matt August 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    FWIW I love Car2go. People can’t be all that surprised by this. If I loan you by bike I wouldn’t want you to put a rack on it. I use Car2go when I’m not on the bike. If I have my bike I’m riding it. Why are so many hating on Car2go?

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  • DK August 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I think Battle would be wise to aggressively market directly to Car2Go. Get them on-board and they could offer it as a “feature” of their service by including the racks on all of their cars, presumably increasing their desire-ability to potential customers…Win-win for the non-myopic.

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  • Todd Hudson August 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Sorry to say I have to agree with Car2Go’s policy. There are way too many people out there who just cannot follow instructions.

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    • maxadders August 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      But that’s too reasonable! We’re supposed to get all bent out of shape and threaten an internet rebellion if they don’t give us what we want!

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  • Spiffy August 5, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I was thinking I could fit one of those Car2Go vehicles on the front rack of my bike…

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  • maxadders August 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    At least it’s not yet another sorta-novel take on the bike light. Call me crazy, but when I can waltz into any decent bike shop and find two dozen options ranging from a few bucks to a few hundred, you’ve really gotta knock it out of the ballpark to compete with mass manufacturers’ designs– most of which are pretty decent.

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  • Editz August 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Watched the video and thought it was Gibby Haynes there for a second.

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  • Mike August 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Why not just use ZipCar? Is it a territory/ZC availability thing?

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  • Scott August 6, 2013 at 8:48 am

    So putting a bike on the back of the car violates Car2Go’s insurance but making a video while driving one doesn’t? This is a very unique policy.

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  • Mark August 8, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I read the link to the policy that the cars2go person posted above and don’t see where they prohibit. Didn’t see a mention of bike racks Is this an alteration? questionable, given it fits attaches in a place the manufacturer intended to be useable. “Propel an object” the people and any of the cargo in the car are also propelled. That doesn’t stop c2g from altering their agreement, but if they do, it’s a reason to use zipcar.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) August 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      That’s correct, Mark — there’s no explicit mention of bike racks. Car2go says they’re covered by the “alteration” clause. Free2go’s Ryan Battle argues, not unreasonably IMO, that if car2go really wanted to stop people from putting racks on their cars, they’d say it.

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      • Dwainedibbly August 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        When I think of “alterations” I think of stuff like nitrous oxide kits or flame paint jobs or gluing beer bottle caps all over it.

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    • wsbob August 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Is the vehicle Car2go uses for it’s fleet, the Smart Car, designed to withstand mounting various apparatus to the exterior of the vehicle for the purpose of hauling around additional material or equipment than can be carried within the vehicle?

      That’s the issue Car2go is responsible for having some certainty of, and answering to its insurance policy accordingly. It appears from his lack of response about the function of his bike rack design with the Smart Car’s structure, designer/inventor Ryan Battle may not have effectively demonstrated to Car2go, that his invention can do the job of hauling bikes on the outside of the vehicle without posing a threat to other people on the road, or the vehicle itself.

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      • Chris August 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

        Based on the Kickstarter video, it looks like the Car is driving around without any problems. Plus, there are other bike racks for Smart Cars available (e.g. Thule bike rack – http://compare.ebay.com/like/280815711356?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar), so it’s not like Smart Cars can’t handle external cargo. Unlike most bike racks however, Free2Go is ultra light/portable, which makes it great for “mode shifters” (e.g. people who shift seamlessly throughout the day from one mode of transportation to another – from bus to bike to car sharing, etc.). That + the price ($99 vs. Thule’s $449) makes Free2Go a very attractive bike rack IMO for Smart Cars and Car2Go users.

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        • wsbob August 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm

          What you say, may well be, but it’s Car2go that apparently hasn’t yet been persuaded that the Free2go portable bike rack is compatible with the car, and the service it offers to its customers. In this bikeportland story, the Car2go spokesperson’s comments suggest the company couldn’t allow “…any detachable racks…” being mounted to its cars.

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          • Chris August 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm

            On page 9 of their agreement (http://austin.car2go.com/pdf/car2go_terms.pdf – letter h), Car2Go says, “The Member shall not:transport objects with the vehicle that could – due to their size, shape or weight – adversely impact the vehicle’s handling safety or that could damage the interior of the vehicle.”

            And yet…several Car2Go fleet managers have told me stories at varying member events that they deal with broken latches (and in some cases damaged glass/interiors) due to people cramming their bikes into the cars.

            All I’m trying to say is that it seems a lot safer to put your bike on a rack with stirrups and straps vs. having it sticking out of the back window. You know what I mean?

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            • wsbob August 12, 2013 at 11:25 pm

              You or I aren’t the people Ryan Battle has to go to with his bike rack invention, to have it authorized to be used on Car2Go’s Smart Cars. More details about efforts Ryan Battle has or hasn’t made, to introduce his invention to Car2Go officials, and persuade them that authorizing use of it to their customers would be beneficial to their Car2Go’s success, could be the basis for a good story.

              I haven’t seen the Free2go video. Aside from your mention of straps, from Battle’s comments here and in info supplied elsewhere on his Kickstarter page, I don’t have much of an idea of what means he’s used to secure the rack to the Smart Car, and the bike to the rack. Even if some idea of the attachment system is shown in the video, if I was a corporate official responsible for making a decision about whether a particular external mounted accessory was safe to be used on cars in a car share service, I’d expect much more demonstration than a video to prove that the product was viable for the intended service.

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  • Tom Lee M August 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I think it would be great for Smart car owners who want to transport their bike without having to pay a lot to do so.

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  • eva pustelnikova February 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Hopefully the initial knee jerk reaction by Car2Go can just be attributed to general litigious fears that companies in our modern world unfortunately have to possess; and that ultimately, they will warm-up to the idea of allowing a brilliant invention like this as part of their service offering on their Car2Go service. I truly believe that they are missing out on fabulous, additional income potential and at the same time, they are almost negating the purpose of their service and the SmartCar somewhat.

    First of all, this little car was designed WITH the intention of having towing/carrying abilities.. .that is why the holes in the back of the car exist and were specifically and carefully designed- to carry ‘stuff’.

    Secondly, Car2Go’s future viability and relevance lies with the idea that ‘they will do better (and make more money) if more people become conscious to the concept that you do not need to own 2 tons of steel (an average car) most days to get from point A to point B’. People who have this consciousness are walkers, car-sharing service users AND bike-riders! Giving these people (the customers) every possible way to transport themselves in the most available and flexible ways, I think, should be at the heart of this company’s concern. When someone comes up with a product under $99 and can fit in a purse. . .and can transport a bike. . .Car2Go should be getting super excited and thinking “how can we get these bike rides who are not using our service yet on board using this thing?”.

    Anyway, I am really getting excited to get my Free2Go for my SmartCar. I always intended to get the bike rack but was hesitant to pay the almost $500 it cost for the one offered by Smart. . .and it is really cumbersome besides. Desperate, I tried looking for a less expensive alternative and found this one on Kickstarter. I am really excited that someone created it and though about out-of-the box designs that use the least amount of resources to accomplish a simple goal. . . .maybe Car2Go will get excited about it soon as well 🙂

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