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Zipcars give a greener alternative

by AMANDA GRAY | Friday, September 3, 2010

A global company with an earth-friendly agenda has come to campus.

Zipcars, the world’s largest car-sharing program, now has four cars on Notre Dame’s campus, Erin Hafner said. Hafner is the programs manager for the Office of Sustainability.

“We had several requests from students and student groups to offer a car-sharing programs,” she said.

The program opened Thursday, with an event at South Dining Hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. where students could register on-site and win giveaways. The event was originally located at Fieldhouse Mall but was moved due to rain. There will also be an identical event today.

The program is available for anyone on campus older than 18 with a driver’s license, Hafner said. The company covers insurance, gas, 180 miles each day, reserved parking spots, roadside assistance, cleaning and maintenance. There’s even a gas card in the visor to fill up when around town.

“We’re hoping as it’s more popular student will come to campus not bringing cars,” Hafner said.

The program states for every Zipcar used, 15 to 20 cars are taken off the road.

“We’re hoping it fulfills the 15 to 20 vehicles,” Hafner said. “Think of students bringing vehicles to campus – they sit there. They’re only used a few times during campus. These are opportunities to use Zipcars.”

Hafner said she hopes parents also see Zipcar as an alternative to sending their children to school with cars. The cars on campus are all low-emission vehicles. Two Toyota Priuses, named Paddy and Perpetua, and two Scion Xbs, named Bree and Blarney, now call Notre Dame home.

Zipcar normally requires a $25 registration fee and a $50 annual fee. Anyone affiliated with Notre Dame registers through www.zipcar.com/notredame, where the annual registration fee is $35, with $35 driving credit added toward the first month of driving, according to a press release.

After students, faculty or staff register, they receive a “Zipcard” in the mail, which looks like a credit card and has a built-in microchip.

After registration, users reserve cars through the company’s website. Once approaching the cars, which are located in the old Juniper Road parking lot near Stepan Center, the microchip in the Zipcard unlocks the door. Cars rent for $8 an hour Monday through Friday, with a maximum of $66 per day charged. On weekends the cost rises to $9 an hour, with a maximum charge of $72.

Hafner said users with iPhones can download an application to rent cars and open vehicles directly from their phone.

“It’s important to know you have to be on time with returning the vehicle,” Hafner said. “They give you plenty of options to extend your time, but there is a fee associated with it.”

Hafner said when participants in the program reach the age of 21, they can share any Zipcar globally.

“You can fly to Paris and use a Zipcar,” she said.

The decision to work with Zipcar instead of other car-sharing programs was simple, Hafner said.

“Zipcar has been around the longest — they have the most robust program,” she said. “Their main business is car-sharing, not car rentals with some dealing in car-sharing. They have the largest program and the biggest fleet.”