Those cute blue and white cars that have become nearly ubiquitous on the streets of Portland in recent years are going away. Car2go, a carsharing company with 54,000 members in Portland, announced today they will phase out their compact, 2-seater Smart cars in favor of a larger vehicle.
The news is being received with some jeers from the many users of the service who liked not just the small size of the Smart cars but the fact that they came with a bike rack. A 2015 survey from the company found that sixty-eight percent of their Portland customers biked at least once per week, and 37 percent biked five to seven times a week. 76 percent of survey-takers said they wanted bike racks the local fleet.
Gotta say I'm a little saddened by the news that Car2Go is phasing out the Smart fourTwos
— Evan Landman (@evanlandman) October 18, 2017
@car2goPortland psyched about all the Mercedes now, but will there still be some with bike racks? I use them all the time!!!
— Mary (@thekitchenpaper) October 18, 2017
In a statement, Car2go said they made the move to the larger, “fun and sexy” Mercedes-Benz models due to “overwhelming usage data and member feedback.” They’ll now offer the Mercedes-Benz GLA (a small SUV) and CLA (a four-door sedan). The transformation of the fleet should be complete by the end of this month.
Just how small were those Smart cars? Here’s an image with a bicycle rider for context:
And here are the new vehicles:
Unlike the two-seater Smart cars, the new vehicles will seat up to five people. “The increased passenger capacity of car2go’s new Mercedes-Benz vehicles,” Car2go says, “further enable car2go to move even more Portlanders around the city using fewer cars.” The Benz models get about nine fewer miles per gallon (in the city) than the Smart cars.
Based on strong support from members, Car2go outfitted half their Portland fleet (about 475 vehicles) with bike racks back in 2015. While the Mercedes models won’t have a bike rack, the company said on Twitter this morning that, “The GLAs have foldable rear seats and plenty of space for a bike in the back!”
Even if it can fit, we’ll miss the quirky aesthetic and bike advocacy impact of seeing bikes on the back of the Smart cars.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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If anyone used the bike racks on the Smartcars, you quickly realize they are awful. You have to start the rental to get the key that lets you unlock the plastic straps – spending several minutes of your rental mounting/dismounting your bike. One or both of the little cinch straps that are supposed to be on the rack were often missing. I made those racks work by using my own cam straps – if I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t use them at all.
I would get the bikes into position and get the mounts adjusted, THEN get into the car and grab the key (if the last user didn’t leave the straps open) to strap it to the rack…
too bad they don’t delay the start of the rental until you’ve actually started the car…
Having to pay the entire time you are using the car?? The horror!
I’m really bummed about this. I use car2go regularly and really hate the mercedes. The little fortwo cars are so easy to park and the technology is all integrated in a much more useful way. The mercedes have a really distracting interior display panel and requires you to take eyes off the road to do anything, even shift gears. Even the side view mirrors are distracting with little yellow triangles that light up any time the speed drops below 20mph and make it difficult to tell if there is a cyclist in the bike lane to the right in low light situations.
Me too. I drive as little as possible, so the tiny smartcars were nice: I already had a good idea of where I was in space. The big cars are cumbersome and difficult for a nervous, less-experienced driver like me to use safely and reliably. They also require more fine-tuning of seats and mirrors. Maybe that’s a perk for tall people?
Anyway, yeah, not going to be using Car2Go any time soon because they’re no longer filling the “tiny, easy, there” niche in my life.
I think I fit into the Smart Car better than the new ones. Confusing seat adjustment! First time/only time I used one I ended up driving all crunched up because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
You have to remember that Car2Go is owned by one of the worlds largest automakers and has become less of an experiment in urban car sharing and more of a way to unload excess autos on the public who is savvy enough not to take on the usual auto payment debt burden. What we are seeing here is the effect of declining auto sales in the U.S. on corporate policy. These models they are switching to must be ones they are having trouble moving through regular channels.
I was under the impression that it was a way to unload fuel efficient vehicles to boost their average fleet MPG, enabling them to sell more gas-guzzling luxury cars and SUVs.
Not exactly true. Mercedes-Benz just had their biggest year ever in 2016 in terms of car sales in North America. The CLA & GLA are among the most popular models. Also, Daimler is working on multiple “mobility” companies besides Car2go, including moovel which has their NA HQ in Portland.
Are they gonna sell the little cars for cheap? Flooding the market? What happens to the fleet?
Thanks for pointing the conversation in this direction.
All I know is that the boosters of carsharing like to talk about all the cars taken off the road, but I have noticed that zipcar and now this company don’t actually hold onto their cars very long, turn over their fleets awful fast. This *has* to affect the calculations and algorithms used to crow about how good for the climate these solutions are, and I’ve at times had my doubts about whether those who study this issue were paying enough attention to this.
Of course, going from micro-cars that by European standards were, it must be noted, a joke in the fuel economy department, to full sedans is both sad and unfortunately somewhat predictable.
Regarding cars offset by carsharing members. It’s not quite what you’re thinking – the 9-13 cars per Carsharing vehicle is based on extensive surveys, both locally and nationally of what the car ownership of members before and after joining carsharing. Yes the cars that Zipcar sells off are still on the road. They’re doing it sooner as a cost-saving measure for them since they can buy cars more cheaply than your or I and the market for used cars is hot right now – standard practice in the rental car industry (Avis owns Zipcar).
I realize why they are choosing to do it, but the higher turnover rate by zipcar(new cars) than by the people who have stopped buying (used?) cars is important when we’re trying to parameterize the net effect on the fleet of car share.
I think Car2Go has a different idea of what’s “fun and sexy” than I do.
I’ve never understood how a car could be referred to in this way. It’s quite disturbing, actually.
Yes — I think this is the first time I’ve seen anyone frame up bigger, plainer and more forgettable as sexy. Rrowr!
When will the first car sharing offer electric cars?
Lots of the car2go smart cars were electric.
only a tiny fraction of car2go smart cars were electric (and of that fraction, many were out of service). in fact, the ridiculously low density of car2go EVs was one of the things that inspired me to buy one of the thousands of used nissan leafs that were languishing on lots 3 years ago.
meanwhile, indianapolis has 500 shared EVs at 200 dedicated charging stations:
imo, portland is becoming increasingly car-centric while other cities innovate…
Electric cars are still cars.
owned car > shared car service > borrowed/rented car > taxi > non-rail mass transit
From bike to bus, modes of transportation that don’t use fossil fuels are still going to be better for everyone than methods that do.
Not relevant to your comment. You pointed to a city that has electric car share and then said that Portland is becoming “car-centric”. An electric shared vehicle program is just as car-centric as a gas-powered shared vehicle program. The difference between Indianapolis and Porltand is that we already have numerous privately run car sharing programs, and thus do not have the need for a publicly-sponsored EV program.
i was referring to the poor record of success for car share in pdx: car2go cut its service area and is now further cutting its service.
Bike advocacy != Anti-car
What would you rather see? And more importantly why don’t you tell us, specifically, how your preferred solution will get us ‘there.’
Yep – the land use effects of “cars as transport” are still a land use and street design problem…even if they are owned or shared…though the parking impacts can be lessened if code allows…
The whole San Diego Car2Go fleet was electric. Then they added gas models. Then pulled out of SD altogether after a few years.
car2go initially had electric models but dropped them all… I think it was too much trouble to get them all to a charging station long enough to fill up…
Reach has the BMW i3 available
a tiny fraction of the fleet and they tend to cluster downtown (one of the few areas with functional fast chargers).
The way they don’t coast is weird. I bet I would get used to it if I owned it, but in the meantime, it just feels awkward.
single paddle driving makes sense if fuel economy is emphasized (maximal regenerative braking all the time).
Car2Go used to, but the infrastructure in Portland wasn’t able to handle it. They had to put a lot of effort into keeping the cars charged. Iirc, other cities (e.g., San Diego) did okay. But in 2016 all offices switched to gas instead of working with the cities to increase infrastructure. (sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sdut-car-share-car2go-fleet-gas-electric-2016mar16-story.html)
I live in SD and am/was a Car2Go member. The article also mentioned that they couldn’t get enough charging stations out there so it was technically breach of contract on both sides. That’s when Car2Go switched to gas cars, which IMO handled worse than the EV versions.
Three months after the switch to gas they also banned ending trips in a lot near the airport, which likely killed off a significant chunk of their revenue source. Since Car2Go was never allowed to keep cars or end trips at the airport, quite a few people (myself included) would use them to do one-way trips to that parking lot and save a ton of money versus cabs and Uber.
Not long after, Car2Go folded in SD. I’d be surprised if they came back, which is a shame since they were really useful – and nobody’s taken up the slack for car-sharing in SD.
If it was Daimler instead of VW that got caught and is now pouring a bunch of money into electric cars and infrastructure I’m guessing it would be a different story.
The BMW Reach Now service has electric cars.
The small size (easy to park), visibility (I can find them very easily without an app) and the ubiquitous bike rack are the reasons I choose their service vs. BMW’s or Zipcar.
I hope they reconsider this policy for Portland and only get rid of the non-bike racked Smart cars.
I wonder if this isnt more a signal that the smart car is going away. They have not sold well, wouldn’t surprise me if soon they are sold only in the event version and only in california basically as a compliance car.
Note that the gasoline Smart car is being discontinued in the US, and so all future Smarts will be EVs. They are not limiting them to only California, but some dealers elsewhere in the country are considering dropping the model locally because they fear there isn’t enough demand.
It’s a shame the city would not fight harder to provide the incentives and requirements necessary to get more EVs on the road.
In Feb 2017 it was announced Mercedes would discontinue selling the gasoline SmartCar in the US. The electric SmartCar doesn’t work for Car2Go. So this is not surprising.
There should be bike racks on the replacements. Putting a bike inside the cars is a hassle and will quickly damage and dirty the interior.
Should still be able to install a 1.25in receiver and put on a Yakima/Thule two bike tray rack. Or offer the cars with a trunk rack.
it amuses me greatly that some self-anointed “car free” people will now drive — ahem — share mercedez benz sport utility vehicles.
A shared gasoline vehicle has a lower carbon footprint than a dedicated electric vehicle. Especially if that electric vehicle ends up going to the scrapper after a few years because the batteries are too expensive to replace (this happened with my coworker’s 5 year-old Mitsubishi i-miev).
Net CO2e decreases per car2go household appears to be very modest: 4-18%.
Net CO2e decrease for a household that switches to a nissan leaf appears to be ~47% for PGE’s power mix and ~21% for Pacific Power’s mix (****model accounts for the CO2e associated with vehicle manufacture***). Even assuming that a 2 car household has an EV and that the EV is driven 20% of the time, the CO2e reduction would be ~9% and ~4% (so within the range of the reduction for car2go households).
(I estimated that “other” for pacific power was 50% coal, 10% hydro/wind, and 40% nat gas)
still waiting for your citation chris!
(the people who up voted your unsupported statement are also welcome to provide citations.)
We’re looking at the same data. I guess it depends on the household. If a household has one EV vs. car sharing, that EV will see higher usage and the total footprint will be lower. For a 2-car household, car-sharing likely has a lower footprint than an EV that has lower usage. I will add that I believe the electric car data is somewhat flawed, as we have not had enough time to collect data on longevity for this first batch of EVs. Many of the Leafs and Mitsubishi vehicles are being scrapped out, long before they should be because of battery or other system issues. This is really unfortunate, because electric cars should be able to last a long time. It is a shame that some of the large manufacturers are not supporting these issues once the cars are on the road. Battery replacements should be discounted, and the batteries need to be modular to support changing technologies.
do you have a citation for “many”. when i bought a leaf thousands were moldering on auction/dealer lots after the first wave of leases ended. now, there is a bonafide *shortage* of used leafs in the portland area: https://www.carfax.com/Used-Nissan-Leaf_w536. they are a nearly perfect city car and battery fears are overblown in this use case.
another thing to consider is that many leaf owners charge with renewable energy credits which further decrease CO2e use. (Independent audits show that RPS-compliant RECs create new renewable energy generation (e.g. additionality) – https://emp.lbl.gov/projects/renewables-portfolio/.)
it is mystifying to me that so few households, organizations, and businesses in portland purchase renewable energy credits for their electricity use.
They are almost as bad as those “Holier than Thou” types that populate this website.
most of the time I use a car2go it’s just me needing to go somewhere… very, very rarely is it more than 2 people… and when it was another person just got another nearby car2go and we form a caravan…
I don’t want to drive one of these giant vehicles…
and the bike rack was one of the reasons I used it with my gf, so we could take the bikes across town for a ride and then still have the energy to bike home…
although I haven’t used the service since June, so they won’t miss me…
Yeah, should be room for a new operator in the niche marker Car 2 Go is abandoning. I bet you will rarely see mored than 2 people in the new cars, just like every other car in town.
I suspect ReachNow is kicking their butt in the small car dept. Driving a Mini is a much nicer experience than the Smart (tin can) cars.
Maybe. This is a merger of those two systems, or the beginning of it.
Not a fan of this at all. I really dislike driving larger cars (in addition to the difficulty of finding parking), and used Car2go primarily with my bike on the rack. That said, one of the reasons that I’ve been really frustrated with the service in the last year, and possibly one of the factors affecting the change is that the bike racks were often damaged or even missing. Reserving a vehicle with a bike rack lately has been a complete crapshoot, since about half of the time the rack would be completely missing (likely stolen to sell the scrap metal). Other times, the keys to the rack would be missing, or the one remaining frame-holder would be nearly impossible to adjust from its position. And as mentioned above, the tire straps were rarely there- I would guess maybe 20-25% of the time. So I guess since I was already considering leaving the service for the above-mentioned reasons, this pretty much seals the deal. Bummer.
This change will make the service more expensive too – the smart cars have a lower hourly and daily rate (on their website today).
I wonder if these changes are tied to Car2Go shuttering its Portland office…I walked past the empty storefront 2 weeks ago and just assumed they had moved to a new location vs not having one at all.
Probably the main reason is that starting with the 2017 model year only electric versions of the Smart Car are available in the US. Therefore there isn’t a way for Car 2 Go to procure new gasoline Smart Cars for the service. Those cars are probably treated fairly harshly, and probably need pretty frequent replacement.
whatever happened to the electric ones they used to have in the fleet? too difficult to recharge, maybe?
They should just get the pretense of catering to non car owning urban apartment dwellers out of the way and go straight to renting clapped out G-Wagons with the Kardashians Trim package.
I just drove one of the Smart cars a couple of days ago. The week before was my first experience with the Mercedes. I found the interface with the Mercedes to be a lot less intuitive and it relies on your phone; the old one just required your card! It was a pain to get everything adjusted on the Mercedes- lots of knobs and buttons and electric everything. Once on the road, the Mercedes is quiet and super powerful. Still, I prefer the simplicity and novelty of the Smart Car and the bike racks saved me more than once.
Ugh. Why are we doing everything exactly the opposite as we should? I’ve never seen so many big, gas-guzzling vehicles on Portland streets as I’ve seen, bumper-to-bumper, lately, and traffic is so thick it’s at a standstill everywhere, at every hour. This move by car2go completely mystifies me. But I guess it’s right in step with our new ethos. And man–but what nondescript, blah cars compared to the iconic snappy little Smart car.
“iconic snappy little Smart car.”
that gets a pathetic 36 mpg overall.
it saddens me how so many purportedly environmentally “woke” people support these climate-destroying polluters simply because they are cute and “shared”.
Seriously… I’ll bet they use a clothes dryer too.
If they don’t own a car, and occasionally use a Car2go, that’s better for the environment than owning a car in the first place.
apologies, i forgot that people who *”IDENTIFY”* as car-free are ecological saints who do not contribute to climate change.
It saddens me how this blog treats someone who has 6 kids and brags about eating bacon as a role model just because she hauls around her litter on a $5000 bike when not using her giant SUV…
“when not using her giant SUV…”
Um, that is kind of a gratuitous slam. What have you done to stave of climate change lately, Mr. Pebble Hurler?
It’s so amusing when ideologues try to out compete each other on who is more legit.
sadly, the effects of climate change are now being felt in non-ideological ways.
I hear that K. Kardashian is headed to Mars with E. Musk.
I don’t think that Musk has said that *he* is going to Mars… just sending other people.
This is sad. I’ve been hoping Car2Go would expand to St Johns, as I used to use it. Not a ton, but in particular situations. The whole point of the service for me ( I own a car, prefer not to use it) in those situations was the parking. Obviously the free to park part, but even more the ease of finding a parking spot where no one else can! And in those situations it usually involved biking one way. So double whammy.
Does anyone know–does car2go still get the special parking privileges it used to have? And do any of its competitors get similar privileges? I’m referring to how car2go cars at least used to (as I understand) be able to park at any on-street space in excess of the time limits.
My thought is that it’s one thing to see cute little Smart cars taking up curb space; it may be quite another to see it happening with expensive luxury-brand vehicles.
The public’s view of car2go may change negatively due to the vehicle change. At least they’re not Porsches.
I think it’s high time Portland reevaluate the entire car-sharing program which ostensibly was to lead to less congestion and driving.
Just like TNCs these are quite the opposite and counter to the downtown plan which is to get people to stop driving SOVs everywhere.
The bloom is off the rose when it comes to the car-lite lifestyle myth circulated a few years ago in the wake of the Great Recession.
“The bloom is off the rose when it comes to the car-lite lifestyle myth circulated a few years ago in the wake of the Great Recession.”
Maybe we should look at this with some data?
I’m pretty sure there are (still) a ton of carfree households (there were more in the census tracts that I reviewed in 2010 than in 2000). The fact that lots of folks drive cars (perhaps even have more than they used to is plausible, even likely, but I don’t think it is fair (unless we have data) to castigate the whole thing just because we have a bimodal distribution of car non/ownership (my suspicion).
They definitely did not get any positive feedback from me. No bike racks at all, too small to fit a bike inside unless you have a Brompton. The shifter is liable to kill someone. The Smartcars were easy to drive and had great visibility. The Mercedes have some huge blindspots that are going to kill someone.
For many of the same reasons already mentioned by others, I have not liked driving the CLAs. Sight lines for parallel parking or backing up in tight quarters are so bad that you are forced to rely on the cameras; controls are non-intuitive and too-numerous, especially to figure out for sporadic, short-trip use; I’m 5′-11″ but found the crown of my head basically touching the side of the roof structure over the door whenever I shifted slightly; etc. I have never used the bike racks on the Smart cars, so that’s not an issue for me.
The cars are also over-powered for a dense urban environment, for mostly short trips. I found it very easy to unintentionally exceed speed limits, both in town and on 84.
I have been specifically avoiding them after my first few encounters. Very disappointed that c2g is phasing out the Smart cars.
smart car-driving car2go users exceeded the speed limit all the time.
I liked the four-door option in case I needed to take my kids somewhere (back seat), but they are more expensive and I would choose the smartcar if it was just me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no Fahrvergnügen in the smart cars, but I’m just trying to get from point A to point B so I liked having the cheaper version as the go-to. Obviously, cheaper still is my bike.
The reason I signed up in the first place was the bike racks. This enabled me to not carry all the tools and what-not to change a flat on my commute and provided a way to get home in a hurry in case of emergency.
I sooo miss the Car2Go smart cars…and especially their bike racks. These cars were so easy to park AND see…the new larger Car2Go cars are so much less visible on the street. Marketing mistake.
(The EV Smarts are about the most fun city car to drive…like a fast go cart.)