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"ZipCar Flex" aims to take car sharing into the mainstream

ZipCar has announced the launch of ZipCar Flex in London, a new one-way drive-and-drop service, which the company says will take car sharing into the mainstream.

Via the ZipCar app members can now choose the ZipCar Flex service to jump into a car and drive to a destination one-way, ending their trip by dropping it off in any one of the thousands of approved parking bays within the designated 'Zipzone' - a zone of 70km2 across London.

ZipCar is currently the UK's largest car-sharing service and became popular through its original Roundtrip service. It aims to have one million members by 2020, and sees the new Flex service as an opportunity to persuade even more people out of car ownership and into car sharing.

The company says each Roundtrip car club car has taken 10.5 vehicles from the road as members report that they sell cars to join the service. The new Flex service makes 300 petrol Volkswagen Polos available across the Zipzone in a mix of automatic and manual transmissions. The new ZipCar Flex service will also help members save money as they'll only pay for the exact time they drive.

"Our latest announcement marks an exciting next stage in Londoners' already-changing relationship with cars and moves us one step further towards our vision of a city where car sharers outnumber car owners," said Jonathan Hampson, general manager of ZipCar UK. The aim, said Hampson, is to take more cars off London roads and help address worsening issues of air quality, congestion and the general demands on space posed by a growing city. Independent research of 2,000 Londoners carried out in May 2017 by Vitreous World on behalf of ZipCar discovered that over half (57%) have considered leaving London to live elsewhere in the past 12 months, with traffic, congestion, poor air quality and pollution levels cited as key issues, second only to lack of affordable property.

The same amount of respondents agreed that as London grows, it will become increasingly normal to share resources. This rose to two-thirds (66%) among Millennial respondents. So far, the ZipCar car-sharing service has seen the average annual mileage for all cars in the household, reported by members surveyed after joining, decrease by 570 miles.

Hampson told BusinessCar: "We believe that the freedom to be able to do any kind of trip, where you need a car without having to own one, has the power to fundamentally redefine urban mobility in the kind of sustainable way that will allow London to continue to grow and thrive.

"London is the best city in the world to work on getting out of owned cars and as a city we are at a tipping point. Looking to the future is great but the change in car ownership needs to happen now and ZipCar Flex creates a huge opportunity for London, making car sharing the natural choice for such a modern and thriving city. We want to redefine the car in London and that means delivering the end of the car as we know it."

While Hampson explained that London is not the best city for an electric fleet yet, in the future he believes the whole of ZipCar Flex will be electrified: "London's electric vehicle infrastructure is still very poor. What we see is in the early days we will have to put out our own infrastructure, but in the future the hope is that there will be so much infrastructure out there that it will no longer be a problem. It's so well suited but there are still a few things that need to be unlocked."

As for business fleets, Hampson explained that about 30% of ZipCar's members are corporate and that number has been constantly growing: "We are no longer just a consumer service but a solution for businesses and particularly SMEs who can't necessarily afford to provide their own fleet of vehicles. Flex will provide the perfect solution for those trips where they need a car from A to B."

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