Plug-in hybrids join car sharing program

Car-sharing service Zipcar has announced the addition of Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids to its fleet, almost a year before they are set to become available.

The Prius plug-in, which can charge from a mains outlet to give it an all-electric range of some 13 miles (20 km), won't be in showrooms until 2012, but the firm announced January 27 that Zipcar users in three US cities will be able to rent them early.

Eight models will be supplied to Zipcar locations in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon and can be reserved by members like the firm's regular car-sharing vehicles.

Prius plug-in hybrids are charged using ordinary household outlets and can reach up to 100 km/h on electric power only, before a gasoline engine kicks in, averaging an estimated 4.70 l/100km (the same as a normal Prius hybrid).

Zipcar says that many of its customers travel less than 20 km in their Zipcars, meaning they would never hear the engine, but it plans to collect feedback to evaluate how EVs fit into the car-sharing model.

Car-sharing schemes such as Zipcar and London's Streetcar are predicted to play an important role in helping consumers become familiar with electric vehicle technology.

Last year, business analyst Frost & Sullivan predicted that from 2012, one in every three new vehicles added to car-sharing schemes in Europe will be electric, as car-sharing companies embrace the lower costs and added convenience of non-gasoline vehicles.

http://www.zipcar.com

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