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Earlier this week, Paris launched its Autolib car sharing program. In a pilot project that hopes to ultimately pave the way for 3000 electric cars in over 1000 parking locations across Paris and nearby suburban areas, Autolib is just one of many one-way car sharing programs springing up around the globe in recent months. Car2go, a car sharing operator based in Ulm Germany, is expanding its short-trip Smart ForTwo sharing program into Austin, San Diego, Vancouver, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. Hertz on Demand has recently expanded service to many of its Manhattan dealerships allowing Big Apple dwellers to rent cars for one way trips between the City and Newark, JFK and LaGuardia Airports, providing ease and unparalleled mobility for less than the price of a cab or car service.

Unlike traditional car sharing programs such as Zipcar, which requires that a shared car be driven and returned to the parking spot it was rented from, one-way car sharing programs allow a driver to use a share car to get only from point A to B. One-way trips can involve travel to a major transportation hub, a trip across town, or even a commute to work.

One-way car sharing provides greater levels of driver freedom than traditional, roundtrip car sharing operators by allowing car sharing members to use a vehicle for only as little as they need the car for. One-way car sharing can also help car sharers save money on gas; because round-trip car sharing members must return vehicles to allocated pickup spots, this may add time (minute, hourly and daily charges) to their cost of sharing. As many car sharing  operators are increasingly supplying efficient, hybrid, electric, and eco friendly cars for their members, one-way car sharing can also promote the prevalence and uptake of greener cars by the public in urban and suburban areas.

There are also drawbacks to one-way car sharing that diminish the environmental savings of using shared vehicles for infrequent, short trips. One-way car sharing may increase car-use in cities by pushing riders favorable to public transit into automobiles for convenience in commuting. This could defeat the central idea of car sharing, which is cutting down on private car ownership and reducing congestion.By requiring shared cars to be returned to the same spot they came from, traditional car sharing eliminates the desire/feasibility to use that car for commuting. By allowing one-way trips, car sharing operators may encourage people to not use public transport and instead drive a shared car to work.

One-way car sharing may be inefficient in less dense urban environments- where a member can take the car out of a well-populated area to one unfrequented by other car sharing members, potentially making cars inaccessible if spots for car sharing operators are not allocated appropriately.

As with so many urban environmental issues, one-way car sharing is not without its highly touted pros and unfortunate cons. Car sharing is a global trend that is increasing every day.

How likely are you to rent a shared car? Would you benefit from the one-way model? Please comment.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.