I see a Flexcar in my future

When I tell people that I don’t own a car, they sometimes ask if I’m a member of Flexcar. I looked into the car-sharing thing when I first moved to LA, but none of the Flexcar pick-up locations are anywhere near my North Hollywood/Universal City home, and I just couldn’t get excited about taking the subway to a rental car. But it sounds like they’re going to add lots more locations soon — AOL cofounder Steve Case just purchased a majority stake in the company.

Case said he hopes to increase Flexcar’s customer base to 1 million and its fleet to 20,000 vehicles in five years. The Seattle-based company currently operates 450 cars in six cities — Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Washington and Portland, Ore.

If they put a Flexcar within walking distance of my apartment, I will sign up immediately. Every Flexcar in Los Angeles is a Honda Civic Hybrid, so it would be a chance to live my dream of driving a hybrid car. (Well, the real dream is to own one, but I’ll take what I can get.)

11 thoughts on “I see a Flexcar in my future”

  1. Yay Flexcar! I’ve been a member for going on two years now , though I’m ashamed to say I’ve only used the service once in all that time (and it was sweet!). I’d certainly use it more if they would station one at or near my job (or closer to home in Silver Lake). At last check the nearest one to me is at Vermont and Western and though it’s certainly closer compared to your Flexcarlessness in the valley it would still be a minimum of a bus and a subway ride to get to it and back and that’s anything but convenient. Here’s hoping more cars come soon.

  2. If you’re driving mostly on the freeway, your “dream” of driving a hybrid doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’re just driving a gasoline-burning car that uses a little bit of electrical power when you take off from a dead stop, is all. Of course, sharing a hybrid is many many times more enviro-friendly than owning one yourself, so all in all it’s not a bad thing.

    I’d consider Flexcar myself if it weren’t so insanely expensive. At those prices, it’s truly only for those who might need a car once or twice a month for a few hours.

  3. Unsomnambulist — renting a car probably would be cheaper/easier for most people, but whenever I look into renting a car, I’m amazed at how expensive it gets when you start adding on insurance and stuff. Since I don’t have any car insurance at all, I like that flexcar includes that in the cost.

    IMBG — I haven’t driven on a regular basis in years, so there’s no way I’m going near a freeway! Those things scare the hell out of me even when someone else is driving.

    I agree that flexcar seems a little pricey, but if I could walk to one, I would totally use it.

  4. IMBG, I’m not sure if you understand how hybrid synergy drive works (at least this is how it works in my toyota) – it uses both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to propel the car. Once you reach freeway speeds it’s often using only the engine, but the motor will kick in for added power. I can scarcely understand how you can say that 50 miles per gallon is not better than 35, as you would get in a regular civic. Add that to the super ultra low emissions and it’s an obvious choice for those who are concerned about both pollution and conservation.

    There are major differences between the hybrids available now, some are performance hybrids (lexus & highlander) that use the added power generated by the electrical system to boost the power of the engine and others that use it to make the car more efficient (prius, civic & insight).

  5. However, the Lexus hybrid ONLY gets 2 mpg more than the non-hybrid. It’s not worth the extra cost or weight. I have friends who do an LA-Long Beach commute via the 405 in a Prius and it doesn’t get any better mileage than a Matrix. At this point, the hybrids are nice from a karma and feel-good standpoint, but they don’t save the driver any money over 3-4 years when you balance the added cost against fuel prices.

  6. Lee, I agree that the Lexus hybrid is a joke. Of course it’s not worth the extra money for someone only marginally interested in conservation.

    It’s great that folks are able to drive a Matrix too, I think all those cars that are super-efficient are a step in the right direction (and the Matrix is available as a SULEV) – the point is for people who can afford it to buy the most efficient car in their budget. Not everyone can afford a Prius of Civic hybrid, hopefully they can afford a Ford Focus.

    While a hybrid doesn’t save me enough money to pay for itself (my old car got 24 mpg, my Prius is averaging about 48) right away, it does save gas. I’m of the mind that savings are savings.

    You’re right that efficient hybrid purchases don’t make any sense budget-wise but the car companies aren’t going to continue developing them if people don’t buy them. Hopefully there will be a 15K hybrid someday. So what if it’s the feel-good folks that buy the 25K ones now? The point is that they’re getting out on the road, polluting less and consuming less. There are 60,000 Prius registered in California alone.

  7. Remember folks, when referring to a hybrid and how it works, an engine runs on gas, a motor runs on electricity (or creates electricity, depending on its mode).

  8. Cybele… we’re not that far apart. I agree with what you wrote — I just like to make sure people are being honest about the hybrids as they exist at this point: thay’re mostly a statement, not a panacea.

  9. And not much of a statement, either.

    If you really want to make a statement, go biodiesel or better yet, ride your bike or take public transportation. In fact, even if you don’t want to make a statement, ride your bike and take public transportation whenever you can.

    Instead of (or in addition to) driving a hybrid car, live a hybrid life. Drive when you have to, don’t drive when you don’t have to. That’s a real act, and not just a gesture. Be advised, though, like many real acts this one will require some ingenuity, sacrifice, and some courage (social courage, at least). Just wait ’til the first time you see your friends’ faces when they ask you where you parked and you tell them you took the bus, or that your bike is locked outside.

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