Zipcar is bringing a new way of travelling to London with the launch of Zipcar Flex which it hopes will make car sharing become mainstream in the capital.
Drivers have previously been able to borrow Zipcar's cars and vans on a round-trip basis, picking up from selected spots on an hourly basis, then returning them to where they started. Now, Londoners will be able to pick up and drop off in different locations, borrowing it for any length of time and paying per minute of use.
The new service is designed to bring more flexibility and convenience, allowing shorter journeys such as running a few errands or visiting friends. Initially it will roll out across four London boroughs - Southwark, South Lambeth, Wandsworth and Merton - with vehicles dropped off in any of the designated "Zipzone" parking spots which have been set up in the area.
Zipcar says that for example, a one-way trip from East Dulwich to Balham or from Battersea Park to Tooting Bec for a day out could cost just £5.80 based on a 20 minutes journey, even undercutting the cost of an Uber, which has largely fulfilled the desire for quick no hassle trips in recent years.
It will be available to any of the now 130,000 Zipcar members in London and will come at no additional fee apart from the cost of the drive, priced at 29 pence per minute. 300 new VW Polos will offer the Flex service, adding to its existing 15,000 fleet.
It's hoped the service will also help tackle the growing issue of congestion on London's roads and air pollution as other options allow drivers to ditch car ownership.
Fresh research found that more than half of Londoners have considered leaving in the past year. Pollution and traffic issues in the city were cited as the biggest reason behind only the affordability of housing, according to the survey of more than 2,000 people by Vitreous World.
It's estimated each household which joins Zipcar reduces the number of miles drive by 570 miles each year.
It comes a week after London mayor Sadiq Khan launched his ambitious transport strategy, proposing to cut three million car journeys each day.
London is the second market for Zipcar Flex after launching the so-called free-floating service in Brussels last year.
Zipcar's UK general manager Jonathan Hampson told City A.M. the capital was a priority one for the Avis-owned firm, its second largest after New York, and "incredibly suited to car sharing".
The roll out will be a more gradual process however, having to work with 33 different local authorities which control parking in each borough.
"We will be expanding in 2017 and more members will have access by the end of the year and the whole of London not too long after," said Hampson of its ambitions in the city. "That's our aspiration and it [Flex] will only show its true utility when anyone can get from any point in London from A to B."
He noted that many boroughs are open to the idea with the rise of the sharing economy compared to when Zipcar first launched in 2004.