Taipei plans to start offering an electric car-sharing service in the middle of this month, transportation officers and business operators said yesterday.
The city hopes that the Ucar service will build on the success of its YouBike and Umotor systems, Transportation Management Division section chief Lo Chih-hao (羅至浩) said.
YouBike is a well-received public bike-sharing service, which now operates more than 13,000 bikes and 400 rental stations across Taipei, Lo said, adding that Umotor, which was launched in 2016 and operates under the same concept, offers a fleet of electric scooters, which has expanded from 200 scooters to 1,000.
The introduction of Ucar, a commission offered to the electric car rental company Unicar, makes the public transportation network more complete and convenient for Taipei citizens, he said.
However, during the trial period, only 10 electric cars would be available from 11 public parking lots, which provide free charging, Unicar manager Peter Chu (朱禮佑) said.
The pilot project aims to test the market response, as Taipei is also promoting “green” energy-oriented transportation, he said.
There are already private companies running similar services, including Hotai Leasing Corp 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 in the early stages, but we hope to identify and tailor the service to a group of people who might find it useful,” Lo said.
Unicar has developed a car-sharing app in collaboration with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, Chu said, adding that the app would allow users to book a car rental and make payments through smartphones after having registered and provided driver’s license details, along with confirmation of their eligibility to drive on Taiwan’s roads.
The rate is tentatively set at NT$100 per 30 minutes, with each additional minute costing NT$5.
Chu said the car-sharing system is designed for short-haul use, such as shopping or commuting, with users having the choice of returning the car to where they picked it up or to another parking lot.
However, it would be a challenge if too many cars are returned to the same parking lot, which would require the company to take them to another lot, he said.
The service might not have the same appeal as the YouBike and Umotor services because the trial service is being implemented on such a small scale, Chu said, but added that the company wants to be a frontrunner in the business and wants to expand the service if market response is good.
“We will collect user behavior data so that we can adjust our service model, as public car-sharing has never been done here before,” he said.
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