Ride-hailing is not as budget-effective as before, buses and subways can be stuffy and crowded, bike-sharing, heated as the market may be, is not suitable for the freezing cold wind of winter… one choice, possibly a good one, is left: car-sharing.
How Does Car-sharing Work?
If a car is just a tool, one does not need to own it so as to use it. The concept of car-sharing is not new; it reportedly began in 1948 with a cooperative in Zurich, Switzerland, and the idea continues to grow today.
Different from traditional station-based car-sharing which requires users to pick up and return a car to a certain spot, today new technologies give rise to one-way, or free-floating car-sharing.
To use bike-sharing services, you only need to download an app, register an account, and scan the QR code, before driving away. A car is more complex than a bike in many ways, but using car-sharing services is not rocket science.
Having registered with a car-sharing app, users can search for the nearest cars, book one of them for 15 minutes, and go and pick up the car. When the user is near the car, the smartphone will automatically connect with it via Bluetooth. The smartphone can then remotely control the car's lights, doors, and even honk the horn so that user can quickly find it.
Three Apps to Watch in China
TOGO, EZZY, and Yidu recommended by Chinese media Geek Park: TOGO, EZZY, and Yidu.
TOGO offers Mercedes-Benz cars for sharing. It costs RMB 16.8 (USD 2.4) per hour during the day and a mere RMB 1.2 per hour after eight in the evening. The mileage cost is RMB 1.88 per kilometer.
It would be better if there is a TOGO station near your destination, because the farther the car is parked away from a station, the more expensive it would be charged; the maximum surcharge for parking outside a station is RMB 25.
EZZY focuses on high-end users and offers the electric BMW i3 for sharing. While it costs RMB 0.5 per minute, or RMB 30 per hour, users must charge the account with at least RMB 600 to start using it.
Membership fees are cleared on a monthly basis, which means users must make a new purchase per month. EZZY may therefore suit those who frequently need to use car-sharing services. Aside from this, as long as it is within EZZY's operating zone, EZZY cars can be charged in any legal parking place without incurring a surcharge.
Yidu offers new energy cars made by the Beijing Automobile Group (BAIC). It costs a mere RMB 0.15 per minute and RMB 1.5 per kilometer. Yidu requires that cars be returned back to its stations; luckily, Beijing now has more than 200 Yidu stations.
Different from ride-hailing apps with their floating prices, the prices for these car-sharing apps are fixed, unaffected by rush hour traffic or bad weather.
In Case of Emergency
Cars for sharing are covered by insurance, but users take full responsibility for breaking the traffic rules and regulations. When something urgent happens, a hotline phone call for customer service would help.
While users only need to pay for the lease expense, they must also pay attention to whether the car has enough power to cover the expected distance. For example, TOGO's Mercedes-Benz has a gas card inside the car, while the status of electric cars offered by EZZY and Yidu can be shown on the app for users' reference.
AllChinaTech (http://www.allchinatech.com) is a Beijing-based startup media platform, dedicated to providing timely news and analysis on the Chinese tech industry and startup scene in English.