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Zipcar is a for-profit, membership-based carsharing company providing automobile rental to its members, billable by the hour or day. Zipcar was founded in two thousand by Cambridge, Massachusetts residents Robin Pursue and Antje Danielson. On October 31, two thousand seven Zipcar merged with rival Flexcar. [ one ] By two thousand nine Zipcar has become the world’s largest car-sharing service, sharing 6,000 vehicles among 275,000 drivers [ two ] in forty nine U.S. cities, Vancouver, Toronto, and London, [ three ] signifying almost half of all car-sharers worldwide. [ two ]


Membership details

Members, whom the company calls “zipsters”, are able to view vehicle availability and reserve a self-service car via the internet, iPhone app, or telephone, in increments as brief as one hour and pay only for time they reserve. Zipcar vehicles report their positions to a control center using in-car technology. [ two ] In the U.S., each reservation entitles the members up to one hundred eighty miles for each twenty four hour period, [ four ] while Canadian members receive up to two hundred kilometers with each reservation for the very first twenty four hours, and fifteen kilometers per each extra hour beyond the initial 24. [ five ] Individual members can sign up for one of two different plans, the “Occasional Driving Plan” and the “Extra Value Plan”. [ four ]

Members are given a “Zipcard,” an access card containing a wireless chip that will open the vehicle they have reserved only at the time they have reserved it. [ two ] The reservation includes driver’s insurance, a gas card for the car, reimbursements for fuel obtained at gas stations that do not accept the included gas card, and up to $15 in reimbursements for typical car maintenance items like car washes and window wiper fluid refills. A member can reserve and use a Zipcar in any Zipcar city.

On May 1, 2007, Zipcar announced that it was ending its partnership with XM Radio and the service would be eliminated from its cars over the subsequent two months. [ six ]

University, organization and business partnerships

Zipcar also offers its service for businesses (called “Z2B”), universities and organizations. These programs typically provide a discount on the annual membership fee. Additionally, the Z2B program provides discounts on Monday – Friday driving. They have also partnered with over thirty colleges and universities to provide students with access to their car sharing service on or near campus, the very first being the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Zipcar Fleet

As of twenty five December 2009, Zipcar’s worldwide fleet consists of toughly seventy distinct models from auto marques Audi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Honda, Kia, Mazda, MINI Cooper, Nissan, Pontiac, Scion, Brainy, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Each vehicle has a home location: a reserved parking space located on a street, driveway, or neighborhood parking lot in the member’s area. The locations of all Zipcars and models available at those locations are available at the Zipcar website.

Recently, Ford and Toyota have gained interest in working with Zipcar to take advantage of its large member base for testing electrical vehicles and vehicles designed specifically for car sharing. [ seven ]

Embedded Technologies

Zipcars have RFID transponders located on the windshield that communicates with the car to lock and unlock the doors of the vehicle. Each vehicle records hours of usage and mileage, which is uploaded to a central computer via a wireless data link. The location of the vehicles is not tracked during a reservation for privacy reasons but is trackable and all cars are tooled with a “kill” function that permits the company to prevent the car from embarking in the event of theft (it does not cause the car to turn off, for safety reasons). [citation needed] Zipcar also offers the embedded Information Technologies it has installed in its fleet as a fleet optimization service through its FastFleet service.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles

In February two thousand nine was announced the launch of a pilot project to promote plug-in hybrid vehicles in Zipcar’s fleet in the San Francisco Bay Area. This pilot is a partnership inbetween Zipcar and the City of San Francisco. The vehicle showcased during the announcement was a Toyota Prius converted for plug-in capabilities with range of up to 30–40 miles of electrically assisted driving on a single charge. [ eight ] [ nine ] The program is aimed to provide Zipcar members with a convenient and cost-effective way to test drive PHEVs. [ nine ] The city installed a plug-in charging stations in front of San Francisco City Hall that can be used by the existing fleet of municipal plug-in vehicles and also for plug-in hybrids available through Zipcar and City CarShare. [ ten ]


  • September 1999: Antje Danielson and Robin Pursue discuss car-sharing company based on existing German and Swiss companies (see also Mobility CarSharing).
  • January 2000: Company formed.
  • June 2000: Very first Zipcars hit the road around Boston, MA.
  • September 2001: Washington, D.C. office opened
  • February 2002: Fresh York City office opened
  • February 2003: Scott Griffith substitutes Robin Pursue as CEO.
  • April 2005: Zipcar playmates with XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ: XMSR) to provide satellite radio in all Zipcars.
  • July 2005: Zipcar secures $Ten million in funding led by Benchmark Capital.
  • August 2005: San Francisco office opened.
  • May 2006: Toronto office opened.
  • May 2006: General Electrical’s Commercial Finance Fleet Services (NYSE: GE) gives Zipcar $20 million in lease line financing.
  • September two thousand six Toronto market is named fastest growing fresh market in company history
  • November 2006: London office opened.
  • April 2007: Vancouver office opened.
  • May two thousand seven : XM Satellite Radio completes partnership with Zipcar and radios will not be available in Zipcars any longer. [ six ]
  • October 2007: Zipcar and Flexcar executives announce a merger of the two companies, with the Zipcar brand and headquarters substituting that of Flexcar. [ eleven ]
  • January 23, two thousand eight The merged Zipcar/Flexcar cancels service for the Southern California cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. Southern California college operations are left intact. [ twelve ]
  • July 11, two thousand eight Zipcar announces it doubled membership in past year, including the Flexcar members it acquired, and now has 225,000 members [ thirteen ]
  • August 28, two thousand eight Rice University announced the introduction into the program in their aim of achieving as low of a carbon footprint as possible while providing extra transportation options for employees that carpool. [ fourteen ]
  • April 8, two thousand nine announced a partnership with Zimride to permit Zipcar members to automatically post rails for carpooling on Zimride. [ fifteen ]
  • June 8, two thousand nine announced iPhone application at the Apple World Broad Developer Conference. Application capable of honking the horn and unlocking some Zipcars. [ sixteen ]


On October 31, two thousand seven Zipcar and Flexcar announced their intentions to merge. [ one ] The merged company will retain the name “Zipcar” and be headquartered in Cambridge. [ eleven ] Zipcar’s chief executive, former Seattle-based Boeing engineer Scott Griffith, will be chairman and CEO. Flexcar CEO Mark Norman will become president and chief operating officer. [ eleven ] The merger will combine Zipcar’s fleet of Trio,500 vehicles in thirty five markets with Flexcar’s 1,500 cars in fifteen markets. [ eleven ] [ seventeen ]

Liability insurance

Zipcar provides $300,000 per accident in liability coverage for members over twenty one years of age. Members at fault are responsible for the very first $500 of costs related to the repair, recovery, and loss of use of any Zipcar vehicle. Members involved in accidents where fault is not determined (like a hit and run), must pay the very first $500 of these costs. In other words, if the Member is at fault in an accident, or it is a no-fault accident, Zipcar will cover from $500 up to $300,000 in property harm or bodily injury. For members under 21, Zipcar provides insurance coverage at state-mandated levels.

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