Car Sharing Service Helps Planet and Pocketbook

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Peer-to-peer car sharing




Reduced amount of cars on the road


With the proliferation of a number of successful collaborative consumption businesses in recent years, San Francisco-based start up RelayRides has taken that model and applied it to automobile transportation. Unlike other versions of car sharing that specifically rely on high-density urban areas, RelayRides doesn’t actually own the cars themselves. Instead, they’ve allowed car owners to rent out their vehicle through the company’s website, with rates ranging from hourly, daily, and weekly. 

Because the cars rented out would be sitting idle otherwise, this program has the potential to take cars off the road, which improves local air quality and eliminates other nuisances that driving creates. RelayRides also claims that its services make it easier to live without a car, while kick-starting economic activity in smaller and non-urban communities. The biggest reason that the company’s business model has gotten so far – raising over $13 million from tier-one investors – is the economics behind it. Using RelayRides is typically cheaper and more flexible than renting a car from a traditional firm, while owners using the services have reported making up to $1,000 a month.

Auto giant General Motors even began strategically partnering with the company in October 2011. This allowed GM’s OnStar service to be linked to a RelayRides account, streamlining the rental process for both the owner and the borrower. While it remains to be seen how successful the company will be in the long-term, it represents potential for both major environmental and economic benefits.

Drew Nitschke is a first-year graduate student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, working towards degree in Environmental Economics and Policy. He is especially interested in sustainability and how it relates to business of all sizes. He graduated from UCLA in June 2012 after...
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