What happens to the 264 cars in the Car2Go fleet during snow emergencies?
Wonder how these little cars handle snow? Car2Go cars are equipped with all-season tires, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and ice scrapers.
It's taken Car2Go some time to figure that out, too. While German company Daimler runs its car-sharing program in 25 North American and European cities, none of them have quite the same combination of climate and plowing procedure that Minneapolis does. So when Car2Go expanded here in September, it had to create its own policy.
"The first snow emergency was just kind of a free for all," admits Josh Johnson, Car2Go Minneapolis's location manager. "So it's been a learning curve, but now we've come up with a pretty good system."
Car2Go has had to. Since that first snow emergency on December 4, Minneapolis has declared three more, one on December 25, one January 14, and one January 18. For the car-sharing program, the announcements have meant a three-pronged call to action.
Prong one: Get the customer to help. During the first snow emergency, Car2Go realized that it could enlist its members to help move cars, and instituted a trade policy: 20 free minutes of drive time to any member who moves a car to safety. Once the member emails Car2Go the perilously-placed car's plate number, location, date, and time, Car2Go verifies the move and credits the member's account. "We've seen a pretty good response," Johnson says. "If the customer's actually helping us, that's an added bonus."
Prong two: Tell members not to park on snow emergency routes in the first place. Car2Go blasts its social media accounts during snow emergencies to get the word out, and reminds members that if a car gets impounded, then the person to use it last is on the hook for towing and ticketing (though that doesn't apply if the car was parked before the snow emergency was declared). "We've tried to make that clear," Johnson says. "You can't necessarily rely on somebody else using that car before it gets a ticket, and I think people are starting to figure that out."
Prong three: Car2Go's fleet team. Members help, but when a snow emergency is called, Car2Go employees hit the streets. Using cars' GPS coordinates, Car2Go puts together lists of which cars need to be moved, and then sends out the six-to-12 person fleet team on long hours -- shifts between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. -- to get the cars in the right place.
Despite these measures, Car2Go has lost some cars to the impound lot. Johnson declined to give a specific number, but did say that throughout all of the snow emergencies, 90 percent of the fleet has remained ready to rent.
"It was something that we expected, especially pioneering this kind of thing for Car2Go," Johnson says of the snow tows. "But with the amount of cars we have out there, and people learning how this works, all four of them have been a victory for us."
Soon, Car2Go will have even more cars to contend with in the snow. At the end of this month, the company plans to deploy another 85 vehicles, bringing the fleet up to 349 strong (one more car on its way will round that number up to 350).
Look out for the tiny, blue-and-white rides under the rest of the fluffy white stuff.
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