(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 434: Competing with Car Ownership

May 24, 2023

This week we’re joined by the Head of Zipcar, Angelo Adams. We talk about how Zipcar gets parking spaces, how they find customers, the benefits of car sharing and how the company’s biggest competitor is car ownership.

To listen to this episode, find it first at Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is an unedited AI generated transcript of the full episode:

Jeff Wood (42s):
Well, Angelo Adams, welcome to the Talking Headways Podcast.

Angelo Adams (1m 13s):
Hey, Jeff. Well, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here to talk to you about Zipcar and Mobility Solutions.

Jeff Wood (1m 20s):
Awesome. Well, before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Angelo Adams (1m 23s):
Yeah, so my name is Angelo Adams. I’m originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I went to school undergrad at West Point, majored in mechanical engineering. Served five years in the United States Army, including jumping Outta airplanes with the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Iraq in support of oif F as well as I served the year in Korea. I then went on to get my m B at University of Michigan and been working in corporate America ever since, most recently the head of Zipcar.

Jeff Wood (1m 53s):
Awesome. What was your first plan of foray into transportation? Was it something that interests you since you were a kid, or was it something that came up later in life?

Angelo Adams (1m 60s):
Yeah, you know, interesting. My prior job to, to Zipcar, I was actually at Otis Elevator, right? And so when you think about transportation, most people don’t think about the vertical transportation that exists in buildings. Right? And so at Otis for the past, you know, I guess 12 years, I was a leader and a manager in the elevator space. And so that’s, I still look at that. We still call our elevators cars, right? So I still look at that as transportation. When I found Zipcar, I really found a company that like aligns with my passion, my passion for improving cities. And with Zipcar we’re looking to solve real world problems with great business solutions. And I just felt that this aligned pretty well with my passions.

Jeff Wood (2m 39s):
Yeah, I guess, you know, a lot of folks consider elevators the original autonomous vehicle, right? You just push a button and it takes you where you want to go. That’s

Angelo Adams (2m 45s):
Right. And, and you don’t realize elevators like elevator mechanics and, you know, services exist until the elevators don’t work. And then you realize there’s no way to get up to the 14th floor without

Jeff Wood (2m 56s):
Hiking. Right? Right. Well, I don’t imagine there are too many folks listening to this show that don’t know what Zipcar is, but if you could give us a little bit of background and explain what Zipcar does and maybe how it started and how it’s going.

Angelo Adams (3m 7s):
Yeah, so Zipcar is the world leading car sharing company. We were founded over two decades ago in 2000 by two women from m i t. And it was this whole idea of reducing car ownership and having more of a shared space. So, you know, when you own a car, there’s a lot of congestion, there’s a lot of carbon that get emitted. So we’re focused on improving the car sharing experience so that we can make car sharing just as convenient and as easy as it is to own a car.

Jeff Wood (3m 36s):
And that makes a lot of sense because I think a lot of folks, especially that live in cities, are trying to, you know, reduce their auto usage, or it just makes a lot of monetary sense. I mean, that’s the reason I joined Zipcar initially was I sold my car and I decided that, you know, I, I was tired of getting $75 parking tickets on my street when street sweeping came around. And then also my clutch was dead in my car. So that didn’t help either. But, you know, it was just easy to make that transition with an option like Zipcar available. I wonder how much that kind of drives people to take up a, a car sharing position rather than say, maybe owning a car.

Angelo Adams (4m 7s):
Yeah, you know, Jeff, when I think about the price of car ownership today as it stands, our mission is much more important than it’s ever been. You know, but when you have car loans or at an all-time high with the interest rate and also the price of used cars, I think the last article I read, the price of cars had increased like $10,000 since the pandemic, right? And then you have parking, you know, to your point, the $75 ticket that’s on top of, if you have to live in a city that’s $500 a month to pay for parking, then you have insurance. And nine times outta 10, about 90% of the time when you own a car, it’s, it’s sitting, right? And it’s not getting used, but you still have that expense. So our, you know, our company is to provide an affordable option.

Angelo Adams (4m 49s):
We want it to be convenient and it want, we want you to have access to the car without the hassle of the maintenance and the car ownership. We want you to be able to treat our cars and to get a car just as easy as it was, as if it were yours. Right? So you join, you book and you drive. That’s our business model.

Jeff Wood (5m 4s):
I also wanted to ask you kind of, you know, what geography Zipcar works best? Is it work best in cities? Is it work best next to multifamily buildings? Can you use it in rural areas? I’m curious what the geography is that works best for a shared car system.

Angelo Adams (5m 17s):
Yeah. Our, our geography is where we have condensed communities, right? So our prom locations are inner cities. So you think about dc, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, all of those are some of our, our top cities. And when you think about colleges and universities, we’re on colleges and university campuses, you know, again, condensed environments. The last area where we target is we’re doing some B2B work. So where you have, you know, hubs of a, of a campus, almost like a college campus of a business, we’ve done a ton of work in the B2B space as well.

Jeff Wood (5m 48s):
That makes a lot of sense. New York just announced that they were adding more car sharing spaces around the city, and many of those are going to zip cars. How does that process work for like choosing a space where you would allocate a vehicle or working with the city to figure out which spaces are the best ones for putting cars?

Angelo Adams (6m 4s):
Yeah, so we have a very good, a great, actually public partners, sort of a team that goes out and talks to towns and communities, getting ideas on where these vehicles should be placed. And then we have a, we have a proprietary sort of a model where we can look and say, okay, here’s where we’re seeing demand, right? Because sometimes we see demand being searched, even though we may not have vehicles in that area. So we have a model that says, okay, based on the demand and based on where the partners would like the vehicles, here’s the optimal, ideal place for us to position that vehicle. And so we’ve worked with, in a sense of New York, right? We’ve worked with these partners to identify the spaces, the areas, and then also the, the vehicles that we put in those locations.

Angelo Adams (6m 45s):
And it was a back and forth, you know, we’ve, we’ve asked for a lot more spaces and certain areas, right? And if you look at areas that are underserved, right? We, we have a higher percentage of our vehicles in underserved areas than the actual city. Like it was the minimum baseline is like, we have to have 25%. Well, in areas like in New York, we have a much higher percentage of our vehicles in underserved communities.

Jeff Wood (7m 7s):
Do you all pay fees for those spaces? For those spots? Yeah,

Angelo Adams (7m 10s):
We do. We, we pay fees for those spaces as well as anyone’s, obviously that’s parked in the, the garages.

Jeff Wood (7m 16s):
Is it typically more than like a garage space, or is it just the regular kind of fee that would come with parking in a garage that somebody would pay if they were like a monthly parker or whatever?

Angelo Adams (7m 25s):
No, it’s typically at a reduced rate, which would allow us to, you know, better serve the underserved communities. Not only that, but we also oftentimes, particularly with NYCHA and some of the other areas, that’s the New York City Housing Authority, working with the, the local governments. We actually provide a discounted membership to some of those communities as well. So the reduced parking expense allows us to better serve them, also provide reduced pricing to our members.

Jeff Wood (7m 50s):
Are there safety considerations when you’re considering spaces, lighting, location surrounding businesses, those types of things?

Angelo Adams (7m 56s):
Yeah, th those are all in play, right? We, you know, we look at that and we work with the local community in the sense of the New York City partnership deal. We had our team at night going to the local, like, I believe there was town meetings, you know, discussions, and they would discuss that. So yeah, we’d look at safety, we’d look at how to best market, where to put signs and what, what are the best locations in order to keep our vehicle safe as well as the riding public.

Jeff Wood (8m 23s):
So as I mentioned, I, I sold my car in 2010 and I got a Zipcar membership in 2011. And I, I know you just joined last year, but I’m, I’m wondering if you could kind of tell us a little bit how the company’s changed over the last 20 years or so, even last decade.

Angelo Adams (8m 36s):
Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s interesting. I think the company’s changed a lot. It’s actually changed a lot since I’ve been here. So I would say at first it wasn’t as technical, right? There was, I believe, and this is just from my understanding, is that there was no automatic way to remotely unlock and lock the door. The key would be positioned on the car originally, and it was a lockbox, and you would go to the lockbox and that’s how you would get the key to the car. Where over time that’s changed. And now you can actually join from your app, and then we run a license check from your app. You can book it right from your app and you can drive. So in the course of, you know, the last two decades we run from a lockbox, right? To more somewhere where it’s almost self-serve and you can do it immediately.

Angelo Adams (9m 19s):
So that’s one area in which we’ve changed. The second area is that we went from being a, a small, you know, maybe mom and pop shop to, we were an I P O and then we were brought out by Ava’s budget group, right? And so since we’ve been brought out by Avis Budget Group, it’s allowed us to have a lot of, a ton of efficiencies. They purchased us, I think back in 2015, all right? And if you think about Avis, they have this conglomerate, they buy hundreds of thousands of cars every year, right? And so we can get a, we can get cars at a much more reduced discounts than we would be able to if we were an independent company, right? And then also Avis is an expert in like fleet management, right? So it brings us scale, it brings US efficiency and fleet management.

Angelo Adams (10m 2s):
And so I think that’s on the operations side, that’s helped us become a better operations company. And then two more areas, the next area would be how we service our members. So we’ve gotten much smarter. I think you would, you know, within the last 12 months, you would see now that you can take pictures from your app of the cars, right? Which will allow us to identify and attribute damages, you know, when damages happen. Also cleanliness. And so we can hold members accountable. Over the last year we’ve kicked off 10,000 members off our platform that were just not good members, right? And so we’re making our platform better for members.

Jeff Wood (10m 34s):
Oh yeah, that’s a lot of people that, that’s a lot of people to kick off the platform. I’m wondering what kind of, what were their transgressions?

Angelo Adams (10m 41s):
Yeah, so there’s really three basic key rules that we ask of all of our members, right? The first is that you return the cars back on time. If you don’t return your car back on time, it has a domino effect for how other members, like what do we have to do behind the scenes to ensure we satisfy other member reservations, right? So we gotta find new cars, we have to make sure the other member has access to a new car. And sometimes, you know, it could be a distance away. So returning the car back on time is one of our core rules that we hold people accountable to. The second rule is keeping the car clean, whether it’s inside, outside, whether it’s smells, right? We, we ask that our members keep our cars clean.

Angelo Adams (11m 21s):
And before every trip we ask you to take a photo on the inside and outside of every ride. That way if, if it didn’t happen on your ride, right, we can attribute it back to the damage to where it belongs or if the car wasn’t returned clean. And then the third piece is fuel up, right? So we ask that if the tank is below a quarter of a tank, we have a gas card that’s usually kept in advisor, we ask you to fuel the card up if it’s below a quarter of a 10. So those are the three simple rules. And you know, in the past we didn’t have the resources to really hold people accountable to the rules. And so what you saw is that, you know, you had these rules, but there was really no way to enforce them. Over the last 12 months since I’ve been here, we’ve been enforcing the rules, we’ve changed our platform so that we can hold more people accountable.

Angelo Adams (12m 6s):
And as a result, we at least 10,000 fewer people on the platform, but the platform is better for the members who are still around.

Jeff Wood (12m 13s):
I appreciate that, cuz as a member, I run into a lot of these things and I’ve been guilty of bringing a car back late. I think these things are probably being learned or, or at least fixed over time. But there’s a lot of those types of like small issues I imagine you’ve been dealing with as well.

Angelo Adams (12m 27s):
Yeah, I mean, you know, for the safety of our members and our vehicles, right? It’s a $40,000 asset on average in many cases. I would say that, you know, over time, one of the things that we’re looking to do is we’re looking to, when we talk to our members, one of the things they talk about is being able to like change reservations at the last minute, right? And obviously with this remote feature, it doesn’t allow that sometimes. So one of the products that we will be rolling out in a, in a short future is allowing people to change reservations and to make switches at the last minute self-serve, right? So if you show up to a car and maybe the car is dirty or if you need to change it cuz you need a bigger car or a smaller car, well you can move that reservation yourself to a car that maybe a block away or two blocks away, or maybe right next to it.

Jeff Wood (13m 11s):
I appreciate that too because there was one time when I tried to get my car, it was gone because somebody hadn’t returned it on time and there was a perfectly good car that was available next to it, but I couldn’t cancel the one that I was in. So I was stuck standing there with a car that I could have used and somebody else was, you know, out with the car that I was supposed to be using. And so it was like this, you know, chain of events and I couldn’t get on the phone with somebody. And so it wasn’t something that was easy to fix. So I appreciate that as a, me as a member for sure.

Angelo Adams (13m 37s):
Yeah, we’ve done some market research and that’s one of the things that we’re, that we’re working on too, again, improved the member experience. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (13m 44s):
When was your last zip trip?

Angelo Adams (13m 46s):
My last zip trip was about two weeks ago in New York City, actually. I usually go down to, to Newark and New York and I visit my teams. And then when I’m in Boston, I also use, use Zipcars that are parked right outside of my office. So, very familiar with how the app works, very familiar with the experience, you know, I, I like it. I think we started the photo taking back in October and November and we’re even getting better and quicker at how quickly we assess those photos and then either tribute or make corrections or, or call our cleaning team to clean some vehicles, right? So it’s more of like a community where you send in photos, we have a a grounds team. And so between the member and between our grounds team, we’re able to service the vehicle as quickly as possible to make sure it’s member ready.

Jeff Wood (14m 31s):
Another big point these days is electric vehicles. And that’s something that I feel like a lot of folks have been talking about. How does that discussion permeate what you all are doing?

Angelo Adams (14m 40s):
EVs are becoming increasingly more and more popular, right? Our mission is to enable simple and responsible urban living. And so we believe that the future of vehicles is electric, right? And as the world leading car sharing company, you know, we have to have an environmentally sustainable solution that has a, a, you know, car free and car light that we all can enable. So we were the first car sharing company in the US to provide both electrical and hybrid vehicles. And so for us, we’re engaging with EV experts, we’re working with our public partners, and we’re leveraging our relationships with our parent company like a, b, g to scale up and to be efficient with how we position, what do we position, and when we position our electrical vehicles.

Jeff Wood (15m 23s):
And what about charging infrastructure? I guess that that’s something too that you need to think about if you’re gonna have electric vehicles and they park in the same space every day.

Angelo Adams (15m 30s):
Yeah, that’s exactly right. Charging infrastructure. So there’s, there’s really four paths to how we, you know, adopt EVs. The first path is scaling our fleet. And so we work with our parent company, Avis Budget, to ensure that we have the best vehicles where to utilize the vehicles and introduce the vehicles to our members when they’re ready. The second is really electrifying our city partnerships, right? To accelerate the partnership. There’s a lot of federal grants and money being poured into the infrastructure, right? And getting those dedicated charging stations is really a partnership between us, the cities and the federal government so that we can ensure that we have the infrastructure. And then the third piece that we’ve committed to as part of the White House EV acceleration challenge is making sure that we put EVs in underserved communities, right?

Angelo Adams (16m 16s):
We have a, a prime example of a program that we wrote out in Sacramento. It’s called our Community Car Share. It’s a Sacramento based program. We have 18 EVs out there right now. It’s in affordable housing areas. And our members there, they take about 20,000 trips over a three year period and we service about 125 members in that area, right? So we’re using that as a model to really roll out. We recently received a grant out of New Jersey for 1.8 million and we’re, we’ve modeled that grant and what we’re gonna do in New Jersey after our community car share in Sacramento. And, and I would say the last thing is really accelerating this partnership, right?

Angelo Adams (16m 57s):
Because as the industry leader, we got longstanding relationships with cities, with colleges and universities, both commercial and residential complexes. And it’s important that we all kind of come to play to figure out how do we best electrify our cities, electrify our, our colleges and universities, and know where the electric infrastructure is so that we, we can put cars there as part of Zipcar.

Jeff Wood (17m 20s):
You mentioned equity, it’s something that comes up in a lot of shared mobility spaces, you know, scooters, bikes, et cetera. I’m wondering like what the internal process is for deciding kind of where vehicles are going to be put and how equity, you know, comes into play in those decisions.

Angelo Adams (17m 36s):
So for us, equitable access to transportation and environmental friendly transportation is a key benefit of getting to that car free and car light solution, right? And we enable that by having these partnerships where, you know, in, in many cases sometimes the cities and the towns will tell us these are areas that are underserved where we would like for you to put cars. And we, and we work through that with the cities and towns and really 63% of our zip card members are really curious and optimistic and excited about EVs. And if asked, half of ’em will lean toward actually renting an ev. And so we got, we gotta make sure and we make sure that, you know, it’s not just exclusive to areas where, you know, people can afford the car.

Angelo Adams (18m 18s):
The great thing is we have a car sharing solution that we can put in areas where they might not be able to afford electrical vehicles and share that as part of the community.

Jeff Wood (18m 28s):
How do you attract new customers? And I’m wondering also about kind of what happened when Uber and Lyft came onto the scene in terms of, you know, people going car light and then saying, oh well, you know, a point to point is better than say, you know, point back to the same point. And I feel like obviously it’s something that meshes together with transit and bike share and all the other things that we care about in reducing vmt, but I’m wondering like, how do you attract customers because of, you know, the shift in, in mobility because of the need to reduce vmt, the need to reduce vehicles travel overall. There’s a need to get more people into options like Zipcar if we’re going to meet our greenhouse gas emission goals. So I’m wondering how you attract new customers because at some point you have a customer base that’s very loyal, that’s been with you probably for a long time, but you also need to attract new customers because ultimately that’s gonna be a benefit to, you know, our goals of reducing driving and and reducing emissions.

Angelo Adams (19m 23s):
Yeah, no that’s a, that’s a great question. So there’s probably three main ways where we attract, right? I think the first one that I mentioned a couple times here is really those partnerships, right? So as we’re going in these communities, right, part of what we do in the partnership is ensuring that we have a way to market to the local community, right? Whether it’s coming to community meetings, whether it’s advertising, whether it’s, you know, demonstrating how to use the app and how to book a car, right? So we work with our partners to help us to accelerate the membership growth because it’s good for them to accelerate the membership growth as well as for us, right? Because then that way they see the benefit of the car sharing more quickly. The second is, we have a very good online sort of marketing program where we know, okay, here are the type of people, here are the members that we’re going after, right?

Angelo Adams (20m 10s):
And then we use Google, we use, you know, Amazon, we use other ways Facebook and Instagram in order to target those audiences. And then the third thing is your traditional marketing, right? Of just sometimes we run, you know, bigger ads, newspaper articles or magazines that our members would like to read and we try to find ancillary benefits. And then the, I, I guess the last thing would be word of mouth, right? And word of mouth is huge because when you share your experience, Jeff, you know, your friends value your experience and they value your expertise and your trust and your loyalty helps to drive, you know, people who are like you and your friend group to our product.

Jeff Wood (20m 46s):
The other side of that question that I had earlier was, you know, how has ride hailing impacted Zipcar and the car sharing industry? I imagine that, you know, when Zipcar started in 2000, it was a little bit different than it is now in terms of what options you have available.

Angelo Adams (20m 59s):
Yeah. You know, we found ride hailing and the bike solutions and all, we found it to be really complimentary to our business. Really our biggest competitor is car ownership, right? 70% of people in inner cities still own cars and 90% of the time those cars are sitting, right? So there’s still a large potential for car sharing in that space. When you think about like ride hailing, there are oftentimes where if you’re driving for Uber or driving for Lyft, you know, maybe your car gets into an accident or your car needs to be repaired. And we actually have a partnership with Uber where we supply cars to Uber, right? So you may wanna drive for Uber, but you may not have a car cuz you can’t afford a car. So you can drive a zip car through the Uber program, right?

Angelo Adams (21m 41s):
So we enable members to really control their driving experience. So if you are, if you’re, if you’re looking to go one way, right? Uber, Lyft, those are probably your your best options, right? But if you’re looking to really own your trip, own your experience, go out and go on your family escapes and then come back, right? That’s us. So we’re not a taxi, right? We’re more of a service of you having your own car and, and having control of your trip. So I, I would say, to answer your question, our biggest competitor is still car ownership and we find the other ride hailing services to be really complimentary to how we operate.

Jeff Wood (22m 17s):
And what about transit as well? I mean, I imagine that’s complimentary too. I mean, it is for me, but I don’t know about other members of, of Zipcar.

Angelo Adams (22m 24s):
Yeah. We find, we find transit to be exactly the same, pretty, pretty complimentary. So for instance, you may have to get to your Zipcar, right? So you’ll use Transit to maybe go a couple blocks away, then you get into your Zipcar and then on a return it’s the, it’s the opposite, right? Or you may scooter to the Zipcar, put the scooter in the Zipcar, take a ride across town for 3, 4, 5 hours, then come back, get on your scooter and then go back home. So it’s really been complimentary what we’ve seen in transit in Wright Hill.

Jeff Wood (22m 51s):
There’s other car sharing companies that have disappeared, Carti go share now those types of organizations with other car companies. I’m wondering, you know, kind of what keeps Zipcar going and, and what keeps folks sure that you all are gonna be around for a while?

Angelo Adams (23m 5s):
You know, we’ve been around for over two decades and you’re right, we’ve seen, particularly during the pandemic, we’ve seen ’em come and go, right? And we’re the world leading car sharing service cuz we provide a, a solution that’s affordable, it’s convenient, it’s access to car without the hassle of ownership. And there’s really three things. It’s the partnerships, our best in class member experience and our operational efficiencies. And so we’re committed to providing members with the social responsible and sustainable transportation option that really supports this global environmental and communities and making cities more livable. And so that’s our strength is we have a strong public relationship team and we offer integrated mobile solutions to reduce the number of cars on the road. So it sounds easy, right?

Angelo Adams (23m 47s):
But the three of those things together make us very powerful and makes me more confident than ever that we’re gonna be here for years to come. It’s our partnerships, it’s our best in class member experience and it’s our operational efficiencies and those are the things that set the Zipcar apart.

Jeff Wood (24m 0s):
Is there anything that worries you about transportation today? I

Angelo Adams (24m 3s):
Don’t know. I I, I’m excited about where transportation is going. I’m excited about EVs, I’m excited about the potential of autonomous vehicles, right? Because when you think about autonomous vehicles, right? There could be a play in that for zip card, right? It could be most people aren’t gonna be able to afford autonomous vehicles, right? And so we would have to have, again, this shared approach with autonomous vehicles. So we could put a zip car right outside of your apartment, your hotel, and where you work and where you live, and then you can get in that and one day maybe that zip car becomes very similar to an Uber, right? Very similar to a Lyft where you get in that car, it, the car takes you to where you need to go and then the car goes back in return, right?

Angelo Adams (24m 44s):
So I’m excited about the future of mobility, I’m excited about the future of Zipcar. You know, there’s a lot of things we gotta do between, you know, i c e cars, ev cars and autonomous cars. But I’ve got a great team that really supports our membership base on a daily basis. And so I’m confident that we’ll get there at some point.

Jeff Wood (25m 2s):
Do y’all have safety concerns with drivers? I mean the drivers that you’re lending cars to the, like you said, you know, 30, $40,000 vehicles are, are you ever worried about safety in terms of the, the drivers and, and and how they’re, you know, trained I guess, or how they operate the vehicles that you’re lending them?

Angelo Adams (25m 19s):
Absolutely. Safety’s a huge concern. And what we do up front is we run license checks and, and M V R checks and we have a very proprietary system for how we evaluate drivers and who can join our platform, right? And that’s the safety aspect of it. And they’re driving record is part of, you know, how we’ve kicked some people off. So it’s been the community rules, right? But it’s also been, you know, whether or not people are, are proven to be safe drivers, right? And so we look at driving record, we look at their community score, we look at how often they drive and if they had a crash or a wreck, how was it handled? So there’s a holistic solution that we look for as safety is a big concern, but we’ve got pretty good parameters. It’s, it’s never foolproof. We do have accidents, right?

Angelo Adams (25m 59s):
We do have situations like, but we have parameters in place to keep it to a minimum. And we take a look at that on a, a monthly, weekly basis. We look at our stats and then we adjust where needed

Jeff Wood (26m 10s):
Coming from a other company, like you mentioned earlier, Otis Elevator. Is there something that surprised you about the car share community?

Angelo Adams (26m 16s):
One of the things that surprised me was how many companies there are that come and go in space. You know, I wasn’t as familiar with car sharing since I’ve been here. We’ve seen many companies, you know, through the pandemic come and go and, you know, everybody comes in and they’re, you know, very gun-ho about, you know, this is a solution that cities and towns and universities need. And we agree. People tried the peer-to-peer, some people have tried the owner operator, owner maintenance, the peer-to-peer is sometimes challenging, right? And we’ve seen the peer-to-peer companies, you know, come and go. Some are still here, but if you read about ’em in a newspaper, you know, if you read about ’em on the, on the street, they could be going soon.

Angelo Adams (26m 56s):
And so that’s been very surprising and that we know that there’s a solution that’s needed. There’s a ton of companies that have tried to come and do it, but I think what makes Zipcar a sustainable solution that’s been around for 20 plus years is the three things I talked to you about, which was the partnerships, the best in class member experience that we deliver in our operational efficiency and together, right? That’s hard to replicate, right? You can probably do one, right? You can probably worry about do partnerships. You can probably provide a a a good member experience. You know, you may be able to provide operational efficiency, but when you tie the three in together, it makes for a, a dynamic solution that we can deliver to our customers.

Jeff Wood (27m 33s):
It is really interesting kind of the turnover of companies that are trying to get into mobility space. And, and it’s not just that through the pandemic, it was even before that. I mean, it feels like, you know, everybody comes in, they have a bunch of money from, from venture capital and they wanna do this big thing and then they subsidize it and then once it goes to, you know, what transportation actually costs, it disappears. Like, you know, like a flame losing it’s gasoline. It’s, it’s, it’s really fascinating to watch, especially as I’ve been watching this since 2005 or so, transportation policy and, and what’s going on. So, you know, everybody feels like they have a solution and then it disappears after a couple years. And it’s, and it’s frustrating I think for cities to try to keep up with all of the regulations and rules they need to write for new companies and things like that.

Jeff Wood (28m 17s):
And I think there’s a lot of folks who think innovation is the way forward, but it might be as simple as kind of following the rules that we’ve followed in the past, which is make cities that are where people are closer to each other, give people options like transit and even car share and just build livable communities. And I think that’s part of this like 15 minute city movement, which has got a lot of obviously kind of crazy press and conspiracy theories. But, you know, I think it’s interesting from that perspective too, and I was interested to hear you say that kind of the change and how many companies come and go and I feel, you know, sometimes I feel the same with podcasts. We’ve been ar we’ve been around since 2013 and we’ve seen many podcasts come and go. But you know, just being consistent I think is the, the best way to go.

Angelo Adams (28m 60s):
Yeah, it’s important that you deliver a consistent solution, whatever that solution is, and that you’re solving real world problems, right? If you got enough money, you can buy a platform, right? You can, we’re gonna give you the world’s greatest platform, whatever that platform is for your technology base. But I think what really makes it difficult is the operations, right? If you are operating peer-to-peer, you rely on the car owners, right? Who are gonna rent their cars out through your platform to be responsible for the car, be responsible for any maintenance that needs to happen, right? And so that solution has its own set of challenges. And then you have sort of the owner if, if the company owns the vehicles and maintains the vehicles right?

Angelo Adams (29m 41s):
Without the right operational efficiencies in place, the right people at the right place being able to communicate to one another for when cars need to be repaired and having partners. Like that’s the tough part, right? That is the part that makes, that’s the secret sauce and that’s what keeps us around for a long time is, is being able to get vehicles at, I would say a lower price than average because we’re, we’ve got this big holding company a, b G, that we’re a part of, right? And so we get our vehicles at a discount cause they buy, they buy hundreds of thousands of vehicles so we’re able to get ’em cheaper. Then we have partnerships where we can get, you know, reduced parking, sometimes free parking, same thing with charging spaces, you know, as we see those start to develop.

Angelo Adams (30m 24s):
And then the last piece is providing a member experience that keep members coming back over and over and over again. It sounds easy but it’s tough to do, especially on the operation side.

Jeff Wood (30m 33s):
Have you all done any research on the economic benefits of reducing car ownership through car sharing or emissions reductions through your work?

Angelo Adams (30m 42s):
So we’ve done research on emissions for sure and for each member about one ton of carbon of em, carbon emissions get reduced every year per member. The second thing is when you talk about like the finances, right? There’s, I don’t know if we’ve done any research, but what I can tell you is, is that on average when you have a zip card membership and you don’t have a car, it’s probably saving you on average 800 to a thousand dollars every month depending upon where you live. Because you don’t have to pay for parking, you don’t have to pay for maintenance, you don’t have to pay for gas, you don’t have to pay for insurance, right? So all of those costs start to add up and with interest rates at an all time high and vehicle costs at an all time high, you know, I’m probably low on the savings front of the 800 to a thousand.

Angelo Adams (31m 24s):
It’s probably even more than that now. So that’s more of a me search than a research. But I would say that the, the cost savings are principle. It’s

Jeff Wood (31m 32s):
Crazy. I mean you mentioned that number that $10,000 for the LA over the last three years, cars have gone from what, 30,000 to $40,000 or something like that? Yeah. Over the last, just over the last couple years. And that, I feel like that’s, I mean it’s good for, you know, us in terms of great

Angelo Adams (31m 47s):
For you. It’s great, Jeff.

Jeff Wood (31m 48s):
Yeah. You know, it doesn’t matter to me cuz I, I take the bus and ride the trains, but I’m living here in San Francisco in places where you, you need your car. I think that might be a little bit hard on, on some folks who need something to get around because they don’t have access to good transportation or a good urban form. So it’s pretty crazy those numbers that have been going up. And I’m not sure what, whether electric cars are gonna help or not. I think a lot of these companies are actually jacking up their prices so that they can get more overhead so they can spend more money on research because of this coming electric car, you know, changeover that’s, it’s staring us in the face.

Angelo Adams (32m 19s):
Yeah. From what I’m seeing, the price of electric cars on average are higher than your I c E cars, the parking, right? If you’re, if you’re parking and you’re charging up, you’re gonna have to, you know, pay a price. I have an ev and so depending upon where I am, I might have to go into a parking lot, pay $20 to go into a parking lot to then, you know, charge my car, right? So that adds a, a whole nother expense. So yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how, how things develop, but I believe that the car sharing community is gonna get bigger and bigger over time because people are gonna, I mean, it’s, it’s insane. If your car’s sitting for 90% of the time and then you’re paying, you know, a thousand to $1,500 a month to have that vehicle in inner cities, then it’s almost like, why, why would you ever wanna do that?

Angelo Adams (32m 59s):
Right? Why would you ever wanna pay that amount to have your car set for 90% of the time?

Jeff Wood (33m 4s):
What are you most excited about?

Angelo Adams (33m 6s):
I’m, I’m excited about EVs. I’ll be honest with you. It’s, you know, there, there’s a roadmap, you know, to get there. We got 20, 30 is, you know, I think California has a law in place that vehicles sold in. California’s gotta be ev completely ev by 2030. I’ve been on conversations with our UK team, UK has their entire flex fleet, which is one way is all EVs. And so we’re getting learnings there. We’re excited about that on a technology front, we are improving our technology. We’ve reinvented our entire platform, right? To provide that better member experience, allowing members to easily find cars to book it. And then we’re making a ton of fleet improvements, right?

Angelo Adams (33m 47s):
You know, through adjusting our fleet, you know, as we see the need for demand, we’re adjusting our fleet there, eliminating vehicles from areas where they’re not being used. And that over the pandemic it was hard to get cars, right? So we held onto some cars that now we can get rid of. So we’re bringing in better cars to better service our, our, our members and our, we’re we’re improving our, our community, right? Our member experience by reinforcing the rules and ensuring that we also provide it solutions that our members are asking for and making our product better. So that’s those, those are the things that excite me about where we are in the car sharing space. And I see it just getting better over time.

Jeff Wood (34m 25s):
Awesome. Where can folks find more information about Zipcar?

Angelo Adams (34m 29s):
To find more information about Zipcar, go to www.zipcar.com. We also, we’re on LinkedIn, we’re on Instagram, we’re on Twitter, so please join us. I’m excited. Thank you for having me here, Jeff, and look forward to getting more members as part of the conversation that you and I have had.

Jeff Wood (34m 46s):
Awesome. Well, Angelo, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Angelo Adams (34m 48s):
All right, Jeff, thank you. Have a great one.

Listen to the Talking Headways Podcast


…the first thing I read every morning is the newsletter to see what’s been out there. It’s great to have an aggregator that pulls everything together so nicely.

Joe Cortright, City Observatory

I think that the email newsletter that you do every morning is the best one that I get, and I get a lot of them.

Mary Newsom, The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

Really is the best daily urban newsletter out there.

Eric Jaffe, Editorial Director Sidewalk Labs


To Receive The Overhead Wire in Your Inbox Daily

Premium Daily Subscription

The Premium Daily Subscription is our most information packed offering, chock full of over 30 pieces of news every single day. Included are popular features such as the quote of the day and the most read article from the previous day. Also included is our weekly roundup for times when you are strapped for time but need to know what’s going on.

Premium Weekly Subscription

The Premium Weekly Subscription is for professionals constantly under a time crunch. We take the most read items from the week before and share them with subscribers along with more in depth analysis of a single popular topic.

Learn More and Subscribe

Video of the Day

Friends of The Overhead Wire

Back To Top

Welcome to The Overhead Wire

What Can We Help You Find?

Try Our Newsletter For Free