Taipei, March 5 (CNA) Taipei is planning to start offering an electric car-sharing service in mid-March, transportation officers and business operators said Monday.
Lo Chih-hao (羅至浩), a section chief at the Transportation Management Division under the city government's Department of Transportation, told CNA that it is hoped that the Ucar service will build on the success of Taipei's YouBike and Umotor systems.
YouBike is a well-received public bike-sharing service in Taipei, which now operates more than 13,000 bikes across 400 rental stations in the city.
Umotor, which was launched in 2016 and operates under the same concept, except that it uses electric scooters, is also expanding from a fleet of 200 scooters to 1,000, Lo added.
With the introduction of Ucar, to be commissioned to the electric car rental company Unicar, the public transportation network could be more complete and convenient for Taipei citizens, he said.
In the trial period, however, there will only be 10 electric cars available from 11 public parking lots in Taipei, which provide free charging, Chu said.
The pilot project is aimed at testing market response, as Taipei is also promoting green energy-oriented transportation, he said.
There are already private companies running similar services, including Hotai Leasing Corporation and Zipcar Taiwan. However, they use gasoline-powered cars that can only be returned to the place of rental.
"It's not going to be easy operating public car-sharing at an early stage, but we are hoping to still be able to identify and tailor to a specific group of people who might find them useful," Lo said.
Peter Chu (朱禮佑), a manager at Unicar, said his company has developed the car-sharing app in collaboration with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which will allow users to book and rent a car and make payments through their mobile phones once they have signed up and have provided details of their driver's license and their eligibility to drive on Taiwan's roads.
The rate is tentatively set at NT$100 (US$3.4) per 30 minutes, with each minute costing NT$5 over that period.
Chu said the car-sharing system is designed for short-haul use, such as shopping or commuting. Users can choose to return the car at either the same spot or another parking lot.
Chu said there are challenges, though, as there could be too many cars returned to the same destination, which will require the company to ship them elsewhere.
It is also possible that the service will not appeal to customers as YouBike and Umotor do because its initial network is relatively small-scale, Chu admitted, but added that the company wants to be a frontrunner in such a business and does not rule out the possibility of expanding the network if market response is good.
"We will collect user behavior to adjust our service model because public car-sharing has never been here before," he told CNA.