Elegant automobiles?

My brother, Rick who’s a graduate student living in Ithaca, NY, took his 2000 Nissan Maxima to the repair shop recently because the horn had stopped working. The helpful mechanic told him that the engine was about to fall out, refused to work on it, and gave my brother the phone number for the junkyard.

Rick and his fiance, Christine, whose car was also scrapped earlier this year, have used this opportunity to try out the zipcar car-sharing service. Zipcar is an example of an elegant solution because it focuses on what people really want (mobility), by challenging the assumption that we all need our own car, which will just spend most of its time sitting in the driveway. Zipcar members pay a small annual fee (typically around $50) and then pay hourly and daily rates when they drive the car (all gas and insurance is included).  In areas like Ithaca, with zipcar service, cars are available in central locations (there is one 2 blocks from Rick and Christine’s apartment). Users can locate and reserve available cars online.

The car-sharing program is much more elegant than the car itself
The car-sharing program is much more elegant than the car itself

In addition to the convenience, each shared zipcar eliminates the need for about 15 personally owned vehicles. Zipcar users drive less, saving an average of 219 gallons of fuel per year each. And, zipcar users save an average of $500/month compared to those who own cars. Take these numbers with a grain of salt (they’re from the zipcar website), but even if they are only half accurate the benefits are huge.


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