Council backing for first city car-sharing scheme

Wed, Aug 27, 2008, 01:00

IF YOU LIVE in Cork city, you might walk, take a bus or cycle to work. Your apartment block might charge extra for parking, and with increasing costs and traffic, there would appear to be little point in buying a car. But what if you could have the freedom of a car, without the costs,? writes Paddy Comyn

A pilot car-sharing scheme, GoCar, is under way in Cork city. Cambio Ireland will operate a fleet of six diesel-powered Ford Fiestas, a Ford Focus and a Ford Transit Connect van based at three locations.

So who will this form of car "ownership" appeal to?

"It is hard to give an exact profile, but generally users are people who live in cities for whom owning a car doesn't make sense. The scheme will also appeal to businesses whose workers tend to make their own way to work on public transport or, on foot or by bike, and who may require the use of a car," says Graham Lightfoot, managing director of GoCar.

Users sign up online, which costs €50, as well a once-off refundable deposit of €200 and a €7 monthly fee. It costs between €5 and €6 per hour, depending on the vehicle,up to a maximum €50-€60 per day, and 35-40 cent per kilometre up to 100km (25-30 cent thereafter).

Following authorisation, they receive a GoCard with accompanying customer and Pin numbers. The user books a vehicle, goes to one of the car stations and uses the card to unlock it and their Pin to release the key. After use, the car is returned and the customer signs out. Payment is by direct debit and all costs, including fuel, are included in the monthly invoice.

The system works 24 hours, with cars left on-street. Is this not a security risk? "There is a risk of damage, but all the vehicles have immobilisers and you need a GoCard booked for the relevant time to access the vehicle," says Lightfoot.

Cork City Council is supporting the venture, providing free, on-street parking spaces at agreed sites for customers and the council itself has signed up for three cars for use by staff during work hours.

The scheme is open to holders (of two or more years) of a valid EU licence, between the ages of 25 and 70.

Similar schemes in the UK have seen an increase in new members in recent weeks, with environmental benefits being cited as a definite advantage, but will the Irish buyer be prepared to ditch outright car ownership in place of this scheme?

The value of the scheme very much depends on how much you use it. Compared to rental with Avis in Cork, 24 hours doing 100km will cost you €85 in the GoCar, with Avis charging €75 for the same period, although your fuel is included in the GoCar scheme. Go for a longer period, and the prices sway in favour of the rental.

However, GoCar does allow for more convenient use, easier return and the benefit of city-centre collection and drop off.

Lightfoot is keen to point out that this service is still very much at the trial stage, with plans for expansion to other cities such as Dublin dependent on the success of the scheme.

CarSharing services are available at gocar.ie or by calling LoCall 1890 446 227