BMW Brings Electric Car Sharing to San Francisco

The car maker’s DriveNow program launched in the Bay Area in June with 70 electric vehicles, and BMW announced this week that its ParkNow offering will debut there next month.

DriveNow is a stationless car-sharing program from BMWi, MINI, and SIXT. MINIs and BMWs are spread throughout the city, waiting to be reserved or picked up. Becoming a DriveNow member is easy: simply register online or via your mobile phone. DriveNow began in Munich and will be expanding to other German and European cities soon.

To borrow one of the 70 luxury cars available, customers can register online or in person, and use the DriveNow website or mobile app to locate and reserve a vehicle. Fully electric, zero-emission BMW ActiveE cars are parked at eight DriveNow stations around San Francisco. Two more locations are coming soon to the surrounding area, a BMW press release said.

“The BMW Group not only manufactures premium automobiles, but also develops a range of services to meet the growing need for flexible mobility solutions in urban areas,” Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, said in a statement.

Borrowers can keep the electric vehicle for as long or as short a time as they’d like. The first 30 minutes of driving costs $12, and BMW charges $0.32 per additional minute. For each minute the car is parked, the car accrues a $0.13 fee. Keep the car for an entire day for $90, according to BMW.

With ParkNow, drivers can reserve a parking spot ahead of time at a set rate. Using the ParkNow iPhone app or the website, members can find a parking space, reserve one, pay for it, and get directions. There are currently 14 ParkNow stations around San Francisco, which are operated via a joint venture between BMW i Ventures and Urban Mobility.

The car manufacturer partnered with California-based Coulomb Technologies for use of its ChargePoint network, which provides drivers with charging points during their rental. Charging at DriveNow stations is free, and borrowers can return a vehicle to any DriveNow location, providing the option for one-way trips.

The U.S. launch is part of the company’s commitment to the development of new mobility offerings, Robertson said, adding that the programs will help reduce emissions and traffic congestion.

DriveNow launched in Germany in June 2011, carrying about 45,000 members in Munich, Berlin, and Dusseldorf, and soon, Cologne.

The DriveNow Carsharing iOS app, compatible with iOS 4 or later on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, is currently available for a free download.

Meanwhile, OnStar and RelayRides recently partnered to allow owners of OnStar-capable Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs, and Cadillacs to lease their cars for an average of more than $250 in monthly revenue. Vehicle owners set the price for their car – based on factors like automobile age, mileage, and size – at an hourly rate between $5 and $50.