eThos is EV-Only Car Sharing
Car sharing is not new to most city-dwellers; both in the US and abroad. iGo, Enterprise Car Sharing, and others have cars available for customers to pickup and dropoff. They’ve given urbanites and low-income people an opportunity to use a vehicle for grocery shopping, errands, doctors appointments and other common destinations. They’re being used as a turnkey supplement for fleet use as well. Cook County Government in Illinois signed an agreement with Zipcar, and announced a savings of $250,000 in the first year alone.
Recently I came upon eThos, a Golden, CO based car sharing firm. What makes them different? They only share electric cars. No PHEV, no hybrids, no gasoline. EV-only. Below is Q & A with eThos founders Tim Prior and Katherine Saphire. Enjoy.
Tell us the story of eThos, and where the unique name came from?
We started with a vision of changing people’s attitudes towards electric vehicles (EVs) and the way they travel. The challenge was to find a name that reflected our vision. Ethos, the greek word for “character,” captures that transformative idea as a business concept, environmental concept, and a personal commitment to making a positive impact on our community. It’s really about a personal philosophy and having the strength of character to carry out that idea and go forth in action. I realized that we are working towards a fundamentally different transportation ethos. When you think about it that way, ‘eThos,’ makes perfect sense.
How does eThos work?
We are a traditional, membership-based, roundtrip car share. Interested applicants must be 19 years or older with a valid driver’s license and a minimum of 2 years of driving experience. Once approved, Members can reserve EVs by the hour or quarter hour 24/7, through our online Reservation Portal. eThos runs a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) to ensure we can cover the applicant under our insurance policy (see our eligibility requirements for more info).
Now the fun part: Driving! At the time of the reservation, Members will swipe their eThos Card on the car windshield to unlock the vehicle, and retrieve the key located in the glove box. Accessing the vehicle is completely remote and independent, so there’s no need to check in with a rental office or complete paperwork before driving.
Studies show that electric vehicle drivers enjoy their time on the road more than gas car users. We call this EV Grin: the spontaneous, euphoria-induced smile experienced when accelerating in an Electric Vehicle. Trust us, you will be smiling as you speed off in the Coda Sedan or Tesla Model S. Our Members are one happy group!
eThos EVs can be driven anywhere in the state of Colorado. The Coda Sedan has a range of over 110 miles and the Tesla Model S up to 200 miles. For times when Members need to take longer trips, each EV is equipped with a public charging access card. eThos covers all charging costs including the cost of parking while charging.
Trips are reserved and billed on a roundtrip model, so the amount of time until the Member returns the vehicle to the same spot he/she retrieved it from (the Home Station). It takes just three easy steps: Return the EV, plug it into the on-site charger, and swipe out your eThos Card to end your reservation. Driving rates start at $7/hour for the Coda and $21/hour for the Tesla. Through our Loyalty Program, rates drops by $1/hour every 250 hours of driving to our lowest rate of $5/hour. Each Member receives also 3 $60 Day Rate Passes per year for 8-24 hour reservations.
For those unaware, tell us the difference between a taxi, Uber and a car share service like eThos?
Traditional taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are “chauffeur services” — someone is driving you versus you driving yourself. Uber and Lyft simplify the traditional taxi model through their app: hail your ride, input your destination, pay for your trip and rate your driver all within the confines of your smartphone.
Car sharing combines this digital-age convenience with on-demand car “borrowing,” and the freedom to get behind the wheel yourself! The eThos experience is more like owning a car than renting…until the end of your reservation! You have all the benefits of driving a great vehicle without any of the maintenance and other associated costs like insurance and registration.
Memberships seems a little more involved and committed than on-demand use. Why Members versus customers?
One word: Ownership-over-one’s-personal-carbon-emissions. With the eThos name discussion, we are trying to find small ways our Members can exert daily control over their own carbon footprint. “Membership” more accurately captures the sense of ownership that our ideal clients seek and cultivate.
Why just EVs instead of a PHEV and EV mix?
Electric cars are inherently more efficient than gas cars and we are a mission-driven company. We feel that most urban trips are better served by electric cars for their ease of use, operational range, and lack of tailpipe emissions. Plus, they are just more fun to drive!
You’re in Golden, Colorado now, what is your plan for growth over the next 2 years? What’s the 5-year plan?
Yes, we are headquartered in Golden and serve the community with two cars, but we already expanded to Denver in May. With the addition of these metro locations we are now serving the main market place for car sharing on the Front Range. Our plan is to build our Members and keep serving the needs of eco-minded car sharers. We’ll keep expanding as the need grows.
How is the EV infrastructure in the Golden/Denver area?
It is improving. There are a variety of public chargers now, and many more on their way. Denver is progressive in working to help people transition to EVs–in fact, Denver was rated among the top 10 cities in the U.S. for driving an Electric Vehicle. Altering the legislature to include on-street charging capabilities is an important issue we’re advocating for to make EV use more mainstream.
Since you are a per-hour service, can you share more about your average member and their trips?
Members and their trip needs vary greatly. Most Members use our cars for errands or activities around town. We have Corporate Members that use our vehicles for client visits and other business needs. Some Members take our cars beyond Metro Denver to Boulder, Colorado Springs, or up into the mountains for a weekend ride. Some of our Members are families that recently downsized from a 2-car household to a 1-car household; others are zero-car households. Some join up just to try out an EV – especially the Tesla! We also cater to out-of-towners who may need a car a few times a year when they visit. As you can see, our Members vary greatly, but they all have the same goal to reduce their carbon footprint while driving in Colorado.
Is range anxiety a concern? How do you address it in prospective members?
Interestingly, that phrase is more for the gas car driver who is unfamiliar with the EV experience. First, our primary fleet car, the Coda Sedan, has a range of more than 110 miles per charge, with recharging, this can be more than 200 miles in a day. In an EV, the term really becomes “Range Certainty” because you always know how far you can go and where the next charger is (thanks to apps and smartphones). This is how the transformation of a person’s transportation eThos happens!
What 3 factors, outside of money, are holding you back from explosive growth? Or is it simply a matter of funding?
Well, more funding never hurts! Our current challenges include more locations, customers, and needed changes to public policy. Currently, regulations do not exist for installing charging stations in the public right of way, and our cars need to be plugged in when not in use. Thus, to compete for business, we are placing cars in private apartment buildings and offering our service to those residents. We would like to see regulations adopted that can accommodate on street charging so we can access a wider pool of potential members. As we grow we can afford to add more locations.
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