Zipcar Adds Electric Ampera Cars To Its U.K. Fleet

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Zipcar (NYSE:ZIP) has announced the introduction of 10 Vauxhall Ampera cars at select London locations as a British pilot version of its U.S.’ electric vehicles program with Chevy Volts. The car that won European Car of the Year for 2012 will allow customers to travel up to 50 miles purely on cleaner electric power. This is the first time in the U.K. that a car-sharing club has offered access to an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV). Zipcar could expand its EV program in the country if the pilot program with the Amperas is well received. Zipcar launched its first U.S. large-scale electric vehicle (EV) program in Chicago in March. Zipcar serves over 700K members with a fleet of over 9K vehicles in North America and Europe. It competes with traditional rental companies and car-sharing services like Connect by Hertz, Enterprise’s WeCar, UHaul’s UCarShare and City Car Share.

See our complete analysis for Zipcar’s stock.

Awarded European Car of the Year for 2012, the Ampera is a full-performance and full-speed Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV), which can travel up to 50 miles on pure electric power with zero tailpipe emissions, after which it shifts to petrol generator that produces electricity to keep it going an additional 310 miles on a full tank of petrol. Given that most trips taken by Zipcar members are short and much less than 35 miles, it is expected that a large number of journeys will use electric power only.

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The pay-as-you-go car sharing network will allow members to reserve a 2012 Vauxhall Ampera online or with their smartphones from £5 per hour, which includes insurance, roadside assistance and maintenance. The pilot program is designed to test the car’s viability as part of the Zipcar fleet by assessing customer demand, operating costs and emissions reduction. At present, Zipcar has a fleet of 1,700 vehicles in London.

Zipcar’s competitor Hertz On Demand recently announced plans to launch an electric vehicle car-sharing scheme in Oxford, England, using Nissan LEAF cars, starting at £5 an hour. It has also expressed plans to add Amperas to its London fleet by June.

Electric Vehicles Make A Strong Case For Car-Sharing and Government Support

While cost is the prime motivation for customers to prefer car-sharing and accessibility over ownership, the newest generation of drivers also weighs the aspects of eco-friendliness and technology while choosing their preferred car-sharing service and vehicles. Hybrids and EVs are thus a natural fit to car-sharing programs, and Zipcar has pioneered in using advanced vehicle technologies, starting from introducing EVs and hybrids in Boston and Seattle 10 years ago. It also recently launched its first large-scale electric vehicle (EV) program in Chicago with Chevrolet Volts.

Electric vehicles are likely to be strongly leveraged by car-sharing programs after 2012 with the development of shared charging infrastructure and will create a strong case for government support for car-sharing programs in Europe and North America. Electric vehicles are clean, green and quiet and are believed to be the best near-to-market low emission vehicle technology with no emissions at ‘point of use’, 30-40% lower CO2 emissions, and 60-70% lower fuel costs compared to petrol or diesel-fueled vehicles.

We have a $18 Trefis price estimate for Zipcar, which implies a premium of 70% to the current market price.

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