27 January 2009


Have you noticed that new car smell? It's entirely possible, as HOURCAR is adding new cars. Oh, yes, indeed we are.

A couple of these cars are in entirely new locations. One is in Elliot Park, sponsored by Aeon Homes through our McKnight Matching Grant program. It's located on Park Avenue north of 17th Street in Minneapolis.

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Another car in a new location is in the Mill Quarter Ramp near the Guthrie. It is reserved for use during the business day (from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) but is open to any HOURCAR user at other times. It lives on the second floor of the ramp right by the elevators.

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Thanks to support from Macalester College we've placed a second car at the Macalester hub. It's high time, too, as that car has been getting tons of use recently. Now members there can choose between two cars!

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We've also swapped in new cars for two of our older cars. One, at the 46th Street LRT hub, is our second solar-powered plug-in hybrid vehicle. So be sure to plug it in when you're done and get a solar charge.

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The final car is at our most popular hub at the Wedge Coop in Minneapolis.

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Get out there and enjoy 'em. They're new and spiffy and are just begging to be driven all over town!

16 January 2009

Electric vehicles coming to a car share near you?

It's that time of year again. Time for thousands of people to descend on Detroit and see what the car companies have come up with this year. (Do note: HOURCAR is not a bunch of car nuts. We all see cars as, in the best case, a small part of the transportation system. Hence car sharing. A case in point: several days this past summer we had to make sure someone brought a car to work as an emergency vehicle for us to use in case we had to go to one of the HOURCAR hubs, otherwise we'd all come by bus, bike or foot.) So we've had a peripheral interest in the goings on at the NAIAS, especially as the car companies promise more green offerings to come.

What is some of the gossip?

1. The new 2010 Prius will have slightly more room and better mileage. It's not perfect, but an improvement over the current generation. Look for some of these in the fleet in the coming year. A Toyota-made plug-in Prius is also in the works, but no time frame is out for that. Of course, we already have a couple of PHEVs!

2. Honda has a new hyrbid out, too. It's called the Insight, but isn't a tiny, two-seater anymore. It also doesn't get 65 mpg, but it's a bit more practical. We'll be assessing these for the HOURCAR fleet going forwards.

3. The most interesting news, however, is the news of Toyota's FTEV, which stands for "Future Toyota Electric Vehicle." How clever. It's not so much that Toyota is planning a small, electric car (there have been lots of other rumours about little EVs, such as the Smart Fortwo EV) but that, according to a New York Times blog piece, they are targeting the car as car sharing organisations.

But Toyota isn’t looking at the conventional car market for the FTEV. Instead, it sees the car as ideal for the growing market in car-sharing vehicles.

“We’re focusing less on traditional commercial use,” said Bob Reinert, national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology group.

That's pretty cool, I think.

What would you like to see from the car companies?

15 January 2009

Baby, its cold outside!

Do you ever wonder how the cars get clean or who that person is under the hood of that HOURCAR? Thats Tia, the Fleet Coordinator (me). And on days like today I am thanking anyone who will listen for the invention of long underwear and wool hats. Making sure cars will be available in the cold, getting new tires and brakes, checking washer fluid and changing a few sets of wipers blades: that was my day today, when the temps were at minus 21 degrees.

(These are, in fact, the coldest temperatures ever experienced by HOURCAR, and as far as we know, by an English-language car sharing organisation. Why "English-language"? Because Communauto has seen colder temperatures in Quebec.)

On occasion, I will have a helper, usually my 9 year old daughter. We get to chit chat in the car as we drive around the city checking on cars and keeping things in order. Today we had to look sadly at all the dirty cars because all the car washes were closed due to the weather. Although I know the folks at Park & Lake car wash and The Downtowner will be happy to see me come next week, when the temps are up and the cars can get a bath! I know them by name and they know me by wash and by logo.

I think dirty cars are a badge of honor for HOURCAR though. A sign that these cars see so much use, and that after three and a half years, they are a vital part of the transit picture for the Cities. We've broken them in well, after three winters! Its like a pair of running shoes. Its the soft, worn ones with the broken and tied laces that feel the best.

So, if you see the short, smiley woman under the hood, or driving an HOURCAR, give a wave!