What happens to the 264 cars in the Car2Go fleet during snow emergencies?

car2go_courtesy.jpg
courtesy Car2Go
Wonder how these little cars handle snow? Car2Go cars are equipped with all-season tires, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and ice scrapers.
Plenty of people can't figure out the right way to move their one, single car when Minneapolis declares a snow emergency. So what happens to all 264 cars in Car2Go's fleet?

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It's taken Car2Go some time to figure that out, too. While German company Daimler runs its  car-sharing program in 25 North American and European cities, none of them have quite the same combination of climate and plowing procedure that Minneapolis does. So when Car2Go expanded here in September, it had to create its own policy.

"The first snow emergency was just kind of a free for all," admits Josh Johnson, Car2Go Minneapolis's location manager. "So it's been a learning curve, but now we've come up with a pretty good system."

Car2Go has had to. Since that first snow emergency on December 4, Minneapolis has declared three more, one on December 25, one January 14, and one January 18. For the car-sharing program, the announcements have meant a three-pronged call to action.

Prong one: Get the customer to help. During the first snow emergency, Car2Go realized that it could enlist its members to help move cars, and instituted a trade policy: 20 free minutes of drive time to any member who moves a car to safety. Once the member emails Car2Go the perilously-placed car's plate number, location, date, and time, Car2Go verifies the move and credits the member's account. "We've seen a pretty good response," Johnson says. "If the customer's actually helping us, that's an added bonus."

Prong two: Tell members not to park on snow emergency routes in the first place. Car2Go blasts its social media accounts during snow emergencies to get the word out, and reminds members that if a car gets impounded, then the person to use it last is on the hook for towing and ticketing (though that doesn't apply if the car was parked before the snow emergency was declared). "We've tried to make that clear," Johnson says. "You can't necessarily rely on somebody else using that car before it gets a ticket, and I think people are starting to figure that out."

Prong three: Car2Go's fleet team. Members help, but when a snow emergency is called, Car2Go employees hit the streets. Using cars' GPS coordinates, Car2Go puts together lists of which cars need to be moved, and then sends out the six-to-12 person fleet team on long hours -- shifts between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. -- to get the cars in the right place.

Despite these measures, Car2Go has lost some cars to the impound lot. Johnson declined to give a specific number, but did say that throughout all of the snow emergencies, 90 percent of the fleet has remained ready to rent.

"It was something that we expected, especially pioneering this kind of thing for Car2Go," Johnson says of the snow tows. "But with the amount of cars we have out there, and people learning how this works, all four of them have been a victory for us."

Soon, Car2Go will have even more cars to contend with in the snow. At the end of this month, the company plans to deploy another 85 vehicles, bringing the fleet up to 349 strong (one more car on its way will round that number up to 350).

Look out for the tiny, blue-and-white rides under the rest of the fluffy white stuff.

-- Tips or comments? Reach Olivia LaVecchia by email or on Twitter at @olavecchia


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16 comments
Adam T Babel
Adam T Babel

Patrick is right, these things cut through snow like a champ. only had some minor issues getting out of parking spots.

Elizabeth Tobias
Elizabeth Tobias

they get ticketed for not parking on the right side of the street. At least the one near here did.

Peter W. Luke
Peter W. Luke

No, the City sanitation department takes the BIG A** Trucks on the streets and hawls them to the Cash for Big Clunkers program. Scrap yard here they come.

ajlalk3
ajlalk3 topcommenter

I really don't understand how in 2014, people still get their cars towed because they didn't move them during a snow emergency. Oh, wait, I can understand. Despite it being 2014, people are still too lazy to move them, or too stupid to check the proper sources and find out if an Emergency has been declared.

joemomma
joemomma

Snow emergencies notwithstanding, Minneapolis has another unique factor as to where you can leave these cars - "restricted meters"  They're marked with a red band and they indicate windows of time it is OK, and NOT OK to park there.  The literature in the Car2Go vehicles has generic language that says you can leave you car at "any" 2 hour (or more) parking meter in the city limits...which most of these restricted meters are.  I've always wondered how many people have left a Car2Go at a restricted meter during the day only to have it towed at 4pm when rush hour starts!

Rick Meyer
Rick Meyer

I thought they were just thrown into recycling bins.

Lyndale1
Lyndale1

If you are the last one to use the car before it gets towed your checking account that is linked to your membership will get charged. I saw that tidbit on yelp, people were talking about that and I had no idea. 

Nick Jude
Nick Jude

They do but instead of a tow truck being able to haul one normal car they can haul 8 of these :-)

daaronconway
daaronconway

I totally understand! Plus with apps, email that give out alert info. Car2go will give members free mins to move cars during show emergency.

pwluke
pwluke

No, thats those BIG A** Trucks they send to Cash for Clunkers.

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