While San Francisco was the best place for BMW to enter the US carsharing game with its DriveNow division, it's been a very tough market. The city's strict guidelines on where cars can be parked has hampered the program, and now BMW wants to expand DriveNow to an unidentified number of new US metro markets where its electric vehicles can be picked up and dropped off out in public spots. Also, Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA, told Automotive News that San Francisco has "hasn't embraced A to B car sharing," which would be another boon to the system.
BMW chose San Francisco because it's a carsharing hotbed, Steinberg said, with Zipcar, City CarShare and Internet-based taxi and limousine services all fighting it out. In Europe, where DriveNow also operates, the cars and their big stickers visible when parked on the street. The problem in San Francisco is that users have to use parking garages and other private spaces when the cars aren't moving.
Currently, DriveNow has participating ActiveE EVs parked on four corporate campuses in the Bay Area, and employees have access to the cars. The employers don't pay fees for DriveNow to be on campus and get no share of the rental income. Corporate customers now make up about half of DriveNow's US business, Steinberg said. Pickup and drop-off locations have also been added at the San Francisco and Oakland airports. Carsharing your way to the plane is considerably cheaper than using a taxi or limo service, Steinberg said. It costs $39 to become a DriveNow member, then $12 for the first half hour and 32 cents for each additional minute. There are about 70 ActiveEs in the Bay Area market driven by about 2,000 registered DriveNow users.
Those DriveNow cars make up 10 percent of the 700-vehicle fleet of ActiveEs currently running in a two-year trial program in the US. Those leases will start to expire before the second quarter of next year, when the BMW i3 electric car comes to the US market. DriveNow is thinking about switching to the i3 and adding internal combustion engine vehicles to its offerings, but has yet to make that decision, Steinberg said.