Back in 2011, German automaker BMW, working with car rental specialist Sixt, launched its DriveNow car sharing service in Munich. Offering customers the ability to rent a BMW vehicle by the minute through a specially-designed smartphone app, the service proved very popular in the busy German city, and soon spread to other cities throughout Europe, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, Vienna and more recently London. Offering both traditional gasoline-powered BMW models as well as electric cars, the service inspired BMW North America to launch a similar scheme in San Francisco in 2012.
Unlike other DriveNow schemes which included both gasoline and electric vehicles in their fleet, the San Francisco DriveNow fleet focused on electric cars, offering customers use of off-lease prototype BMW ActiveE electric cars as well as production BMW i3 electric cars. But while BMW’s car sharing service proved popular with both residents and visitors to the City by the Bay, BMW ended the program in October last year, citing the lack of provision under city law for parking spaces reserved exclusively for one-way car sharing services.
Without that provision, BMW argued, its service was becoming impossible to operate effectively.
It seems San Francisco’s loss is Seattle’s gain however, because late last week the fleet of displaced BMW i3s from San Francisco joined a fleet of BMW 3-series sedans and BMW MINIs to launch a new car sharing scheme some 800 miles north of the Bay. Rebranded ReachNow, the new car sharing service is based on the DriveNow service that operated in San Francisco and its European counterparts. But while the San Francisco DriveNow service exclusively offered electric vehicles, Seattle’s ReachNow service offers both gasoline and electric vehicles.
In fact, of the cars on offer, customers can pick between an all-electric BMW i3, a BMW 3-Series sedan, or a MINI Cooper, with a total of 370 vehicles located across Seattle at key strategic locations. Like BMW’s original car sharing schemes in Europe, BMW hopes to expand ReachNow to other locations across North America in the next few years, expanding into three other cities this year before eventually servicing a total of ten cities in the next few years.
Before that expansion however, BMW says its first task will be expanding the service — currently focused in downtown Seattle — to include Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. While BMW is careful not to announce exactly when this will happen, it says it is hopeful the expansion will happen some time during the next quarter.
“We are currently witnessing an extremely exciting period in the development of the automobile industry,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG and responsible for MINI, BMW Motorrad, Rolls-Royce, After Sales and Mobility Services. “Our customers rightly expect uncomplicated and fast solutions to their individual mobility needs, especially in metropolitan regions. This is why we are supplementing our classic business model with additional services that make life on the road easier for people in big cities.”
Talking of an increased interest in “on-demand mobility,” Schwarzenbauer said that BMW’s future vision is one in which it operates as more than an automaker, offering mobility services when they are needed, derived from “one single source.”
Like the DriveNow services operating elsewhere in the world and the DriveNow service which has now ended in San Francisco, sign up for the premium service is quick and reasonably painless. Initial registration can either be done through BMW’s special ReachNow web portal, or via the special smartphone apps now available through the Apple store or Google Android Play store.
To sign up for the service as a driver, customers will need to input details of their driving license, as well as have input their relevant home address and billing information. Once all the necessary checks have been undertaken, drivers will be able to find and book cars through either the web app or relevant smartphone app. For those who do not wish to drive themselves, there’s also an option to book a ReachNow vehicle with a chauffeur included. Alternatively, for an extra fee, customers can request a nearby ReachNow vehicle be delivered to an address of their choosing as long as it is within the service area.
BMW says that residential or corporate groups can also sign up for the service, with ‘exclusive on site access’ to a fleet of ReachNow vehicles. Individuals too can rent their own MINI-branded cars through the service, although there’s no details of age or mileage requirements for doing so.
As to the cost? It’s not cheap. After paying a on-off $39 registration fee, all ReachNow vehicles can be rented for a fee of $0.49 for each minute the vehicle is being used, with parked rental equating to $0.30 per minute. While there is a introductory offer of $0.41 per minute for those who sign up early on for the service, the service can still get expensive very quickly, although BMW is keen to point out that the service is for a premium vehicle rather than the standard budget rental car most services offer.
While ReachNow does charge by the minute however, the most cost-effective rentals occur for those who opt to use the car for longer periods. That’s because RangeNow caps fees at $50 per session for rentals up to 3 hours in length, $60 for up to 12 hours in length, and $110 for up to 24 hours in length. Fuel (or electricity) is included, as of course is insurance.
Would you be interested in using such a service in your local city? Or perhaps there’s somewhere you visit regularly on business that you’d like to see offer such a service?
Or do you think there’s a cheaper, more effective alternative?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.