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August 28, 2010

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Car idea worth sharing

A GREEN life sometimes just needs a good idea like sharing cars.

And sharing their expertise, officials from Germany's Bremen Municipality demonstrated to their Shanghai peers at the Expo site how they solve problems of traffic jams, high fuel prices and limited parking space.

Their big idea is car-sharing, which allows users to book a vehicle and return it to a reserved parking space. Membership of the scheme ranges from 3 to 10 euros (US$3.8-12.7) a month, said Michael Glotz-Richter, project coordinator and senator for environment, construction, transport and European affairs.

Different from car rental, the car sharing project provides users with parking spaces, 24-hour online and phone booking and no need to worry about fuel costs.

"It's a new way of thinking -- you can use a car but you don't need to own it," Glotz-Richter said yesterday.

Every shared car can replace up to six private cars and helps the city regain urban space and improve the environment.

The project is supported by city authorities, energy agencies, public operators and research organizations from eight Europe Union member states.

For a booming city like Shanghai, car-sharing can be a boon as space is limited and an increasing number of cars on the road can lead to problems of congestion.

At least one local company, called ShareInCar, has plans to promote car-sharing in the city.

But some visitors to the Bremen Pavilion in the Expo's Urban Best Practices Area yesterday said the car-sharing plan might not take off in Shanghai as many people wanted to own cars as a status symbol in addition to just using them for transport.

The way Shanghai limits traffic and protects the environment at the moment is with its monthly car plate auction. Prices for city car plates are the highest in the country. This month the average price of a plate was 40,169 yuan (US$5,900).

The production of new energy cars has become one of the city's nine high-tech industries to get support. But electric cars are expensive and will take at least two or three years to become popular, according to industry insiders.


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