Residents of one of China's most populated cities can now rent cars, an hour at a time, from a giant vending machine.
The city of Hangzhou, home to more than 8.7 million people, is home to an experiment that combines small electric cars with a several-story-high vending machine that could revolutionize how people use cars in the world's biggest cities, writes Forbes contributor Mark Rogowsky
China's growing prosperity has led to a higher demand for cars. More than 80 million new vehicles are expected on the country's crowded roads, in addition to the 120 million already in use, leading officials to limit the number of license plates being issued in hopes of curbing the country's growing smog and air quality problems, reports The Wall Street Journal
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But, Rogowsky writes, the Chinese government is also requiring many of the new vehicles to be "green" — running on natural gas or electricity.
Kandi Technologies has devised a plan to make 100,000 such cars available for hourly rentals to residents of Hangzhou, and plans to expand into other cities this year, much like the Zipcar rental franchises that have sprung up.
But while parking lots can only hold a few cars, Kandi is building automated garages holding anywhere from 30 to 300 cars each. Drivers put in a credit card, and the garage "pops out" a car.
Kandi plans building 750 of the dispensers around the city, with 50 garages in place by March to allow drivers to rent cars at $3.25 an hour.
The electric vehicles have a range of just 75 miles and only go 50 miles per hour, making them ideal for urban use but not for long trips. The cars are being built in partnership with Geely Auto Holdings, which bought out Volvo.
Kandi will also offer one-way rentals, so drivers can leave the vehicle at a garage dispensary at the end of their trips. Drivers can also purchase a long lease, allowing them to spend about $130-$160 a month to keep the cars. The lease price would include insurance, maintenance, and power for the small vehicles.
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