When you watch the Zipcar video "How to Zip: Fill 'er Up" (embedded below) you'll see a Zipcar customer finding out he needs to stop at a gas station. There's a Zipcar co-pilot in the backseat who gives him friendly, detailed instructions on how to get reimbursed for filling up the gas tank.

He's given step-by-step instructions on using the Zipcar gas card. You swipe it at the pump like any payment card, enter some numbers from your zipcard and enter the car's mileage on the odometer. Make sure you put in the right type of gas, though, since fancier cars take premium. Keep the receipt, since Zipcar will reimburse you later. The video ends with: "Got that?" and then, "Gas is on us. So go nuts!"

Free gasoline sounds like a real benefit to using Zipcar. After all, you have to pay for all your own gasoline when renting a car, such as through Zipcar's potential new parent company, Avis. But AutoblogGreen reader Aaron Desatnick raises a question: "So [Zipcar is] advocating that people treat fuel like its endless and there's no cost?" Does that make sense? Does it get to a deeper conundrum about Zipcar and car sharing programs in general – what is their real purpose? A recent study wondered if carsharing is a "romanticized view of access understood as a form of collaborative consumption and altruistically motivated"?

Desatnick's question also raises the practical issue of reducing fuel consumption, which is supposed to be one of the benefits for car sharing. So, a question for AutoblogGreen readers might be: Do you think "wasting" gas, even when car sharing, is a good idea?



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      mylexicon
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is actually a complicated an interesting question. Zipcar exists for two economic imperatives. First, to reduce the storage losses associated with 200M light-duty passenger vehicles. Second, to reduce the idling losses associated with vehicles that are utilized at a small fraction of their actual transportation potential. In the modern era, time is a bigger enemy to vehicles than mileage. The first economic imperative is a difficult sell. Homeowners can bulldoze their garage, but they still have lot carrying costs. Many apartment complexes have parking structures that cannot be easily converted to income producing properties. The storage costs are somewhat fixed in the short term. Furthermore, Zipcar needs space to store its own fleet. Both economic imperatives basically revolve around reducing overcapacity by utilizing vehicles at idle. To reduce fleet idle time, Zipcar must have perpetual rental of their fleet during normal business hours. "Gas is on us. So go nuts" is wasteful from a fuel standpoint, but it is geared towards reducing the idle time of Zipcar's fleet. In turn, the efficiency of Zipcar's fleet is supposed to increase the economic efficiency of entire US fleet. Fuel-efficiency is often a business imperative so they are theoretically promoting wasteful use of gasoline, while working to reducing the fuel-efficiency of their own fleet.
        mylexicon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mylexicon
        working to *increase* the fuel efficiency of their own fleet
      taser it
      • 1 Year Ago
      A Zipcar user pays for gas AND insurance in the hourly rental fee. So this is a kerfuffle, nothing more. Next we should complain about how bike commuters eat more food as a result of their travels and therefore are destroying the world.
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      You pay by hour so the longer you use it, the more money they make. The per hour fee includes gasoline . . . it is not on them, it is on you. And most people are smart enough to realize this. Perhaps not the writer of this article.
        mylexicon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        A majority of consumers understand they are paying for fuel in the rental price, but without an advertisement to explain the details of fuel reimbursement, they may not understand exactly how Zipcar fueling works. The efficiency issue is not related to Zipcar's business model (hourly rental). The issue is whether the tagline "Gas is on us. So go nuts." encourages waste or creates a misleading marketing concept, unrelated to the reimbursement procedures.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mylexicon
          Oh sure... Say it in a straight forward logical way without sarcasm....sure...great....
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        Stands up...claps slowly, loudly...others join in.... Torches lit, pitch forks in hand... Mob approaches ABG building (Sebastian) 'Jon, did you rile up the readers again by saying something dumb?' (Jon, grabbing important items off of his desk) 'it was Danny gotta go!'
      Naturenut99
      • 1 Year Ago
      Anytime you tell someone, they don't have to pay for something, it is more likely they will use more than they would otherwise. That is not saying every single user would... But the percentage is higher for those that would.
        kEiThZ
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Naturenut99
        Except that Zipcar users pay for time. And they pay way more for time, than they would for gas. So while you're right, that users might consume a "free" resource without concern, in reality, Zipcar has constrained them in other ways. Let's say that the cars that Zipcar rents have 60L tanks. And the cars get 8L/100km combined. That should yield 750km per tank. Driving at 100 kph, a Zipcar user would use 8L per hour for 7.5 hours. As long as the cost charged by Zipcar is sufficient to recover the cost of 8L per hour (and all their other costs), then gas is most definitely not "free".
      Reggie
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just had a look at Zipcars UK line-up, would not happy with driving a VW Polo or VW Golf personally so your choice is very limited, so they don't have cars that l personally would choose to drive. Still mind you no hire car company has ever given me the car they quoted, always end up with cheap n' nasty Kia instead or a Nissan l would never had booked if l had known in a million years. Nothing is ever Free like gas, you end up paying for it somewhere down the line.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Reggie
        What is your hang up about VW's? They are similar to other cars such as the ford Fiesta and Focus.
      kEiThZ
      • 1 Year Ago
      Utterly moronic assertion. First off, Zipcar users are paying for gas as part of their rental fee. The "free" gas is anything but. Next, most Zipcar users use the service far less than most vehicle owners use their own personal vehicles. Zipcar users are far more likely to use active transport or public transit since accessing zipcar is a hassle for all but the most pressing transport requirements, dramtically reducing their overall carbon footprint. This is simply an unwarranted attempt to smear Zipcar users.
      Reggie
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not a big fan of renting, hiring or sharing cars, the prices always ends up getting over inflated nothing like you were ever originally quoted in the first place with hidden extras that never quoted when you booked the car. Nearest ZipCar location is a 54 mile round trip away when l only need to get 8.7 miles to work 5 times a weeks, and like most typical Brits we have cut down on car use at weekends and stay local, take less but longer vacations in fewer locations. It will work for those that live close walk into work, and live close to a Zip car location, but do you really need it for the odd vacation, last UK holiday l had l paid £18 for a bus family ticket that allowed all the family to travel for free for a whole week with no hidden extras, last hire car l used my £184 car that l booked up a year in advance ended up costing me £240 for the week.
        kEiThZ
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Reggie
        If the nearest Zipcar location is 54 miles from you, it's clearly not for you. Get over it.
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sigh.... Jon....
        DarylMc
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        I agree Trolls to the left of me trolls to the right
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DarylMc
          To me its like...say Obama had a plan to help feed the poor in some god foresaken country. Then the headline was, 'but will this lead to childhood obesity, while driving local farmers out of business?' But will this lead to waste?? Meanwhile, in other news, people outraged at the extra charges for gas charged by other rental companies.... Sigh...
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think whoever wrote this article should have done some proper research first, with Zipcar fuel is free for a limited mileage per day (40 miles in the UK) after which you pay a fuel premium per mile (£0.25 in the UK).
      Reggie
      • 1 Year Ago
      My hang up is doing a 54 mile round trip to my local Zipcar then use it to do a 8.7 mile 30 minute trip to work in the VW. Never like VW all that much they are not a brand l would choose to buy a car from. Been in a few traffic jams with 10 miles plus of cars parked up for a few hours, its always a Polo or Golf that caught fire in the fast lane that was the problem, BMW engines are not much cop either. Just for you Dave, the things l have to do. http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/consumer-news/62383/german-cars-among-worst-engine-failures
      • 1 Year Ago
      One of the dumbest articles I have read in years. I don't understand 'encourages waste'. If you go to a gas station and fill up your whole tank vs. putting $20 in, what is the difference? The fuel is GOING TO BE USED. How does this encourage waste? Tell me how by filling up your car, you are wasting more gas than if you were to put in small increments of $10 or $20. Were you intoxicated or under the influence of crack cocaine when you wrote this? Or are you just trying further some agenda that benefits you? The way the article is written is cowardly as well. You ask the reader an ambiguous question and don't bother to supply us with enough information to answer it. Plainly because the answer is.. you're an idiot!
      mycommentemail
      • 1 Year Ago
      I just checked, and it isn't April 1st. What is this article going on about? Zip car users pay by the hour which means that if you want to drive a car, you are very consciously limiting the amount of time you spend in that car (and you also really need a car vs. some other form of transport). So a "normal" user who owned their car would be taking that trip anyway (most of their expenses are sunk expenses anyway). A zip car user will most likely be combining errands to make the most of the trip that they are paying for. The only way a zip car user would be burning more fuel that a regular user is if they purposely left the engine running while they are not using the car. I can't see that happening very often.
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