Sept. 22, 2011

Car sharing option comes to campus

by Anne Krapfl

Employees who don't bring a vehicle to work but occasionally would like to use one for an hour or two, take note. WeCar, the rent-by-the-hour, car-sharing division of Enterprise car rental, competitively bid for a three-year contract to serve members of the Iowa State community. The program primarily targets students, but the $35 annual membership is available to faculty and staff as well. Join by Nov. 22 and the fee will be returned to you in WeCar rental credit.

The WeCar concept is built around sustainability (shared vehicles means fewer vehicles) and relies on members playing by the rules and meeting deadlines. It's intended to fill the rental car need particularly among 18- to 25-year-olds. Some rental car companies won't rent to them, period; others add steep "underage" fees that make the rental option cost prohibitive. WeCar vehicles are designed for personal use, so the program is different from ISU transportation services, which leases vehicles for university-sponsored travel.

Rates (includes fuel, insurance*)

$8/hour weekdays, $8.50/hour Saturday-Sunday
Overnight (6 p.m.-8 a.m.): $35
24 hours: $56
*First 200 miles per rental are free; additional miles 20 cents/mile

How it works

All WeCar business is conducted online, including membership and reservations. Members receive an electronic key card, which, when swiped across the WeCar windshield, unlocks it. The ignition key is stored in the vehicle. Members reserve time online and must return the vehicle on time to the campus location from which they borrowed it. The hourly rental rate -- $8 during the week and $8.50 on the weekend -- includes fuel and insurance. Regularly (every other week to start with; more often as use increases), Enterprise employees will take the cars to the Ames Enterprise location for maintenance and cleaning. Iowa State's WeCar program will start with two fuel-efficient Ford Focus cars, one parked in the lot west of Martin Residence Hall, the other in the RCA driveway on the east side of campus. The cars are expected to be ready for use next week.

Mark Miller, manager of the parking division, said his office will provide up to eight parking stalls around campus, at no charge, for WeCar vehicle storage as demand for the program grows.

Student marketer

WeCar sales executive Breanne Bolin, Des Moines, said WeCar employees manage the program. Members receive a toll-free phone number to call when there's a glitch in the system (ex., a renter is unavoidably late returning a car), and the Ames Enterprise rental office could provide backup vehicles, if needed. WeCar hired an Iowa State student, marketing junior Jake Boesen, to market the program on campus.

Bolin said she's eyeing Frederiksen Court as a likely location for the next WeCar vehicle at Iowa State.