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Canterbury's new Co-wheels car share club lets users hire hybrid cars by the hour

A new pay-as-you-go car share club has hit the road - allowing people to rent cars for £5.50 an hour in a bid to reduce congestion.

Five hybrid cars are now stationed in car parks across Canterbury, which members of the scheme can rent from as little as half-an-hour up to a full day.

Co-wheels' Andy Rutter and Cllr Jeanette Stockley with one of the hire vehicles. Picture: Canterbury City Council
Co-wheels' Andy Rutter and Cllr Jeanette Stockley with one of the hire vehicles. Picture: Canterbury City Council

The city council has been working on setting up a car share club for some years.

Back in 2017, it had hoped to launch a scheme with private firm Practical, but the plans did not come to fruition and the authority instead began working with national car share scheme Co-wheels.

The club was finally launched last week, with a fleet of three Toyota Yaris and two Toyota Corolla.

Each car has its own designated parking bay - at Castle Row, Station Road West, Holman’s Meadow, Longport and Military Road car parks - where they can be collected and to which they must be returned.

Prices start at £5.50 for a one-hour rental, with the cost of insurance, cleaning, servicing and refuelling included in the price.

Co-wheels is also running a launch offer to encourage people try the service, offering lifetime membership for £1 and £40 of driving credit, which covers more than a day’s hire.

While some users may have concerns about using the vehicles during the pandemic, Co-wheels says it has extra measures in place to help keep vehicles clean.

The cars are professionally cleaned regularly and all touch surfaces are cleaned with a new long-lasting disinfectant.

The pay-as you-use scheme forms part of the city council's strategy to reduce congestion.

The authority's lead councillor for transport, Jeanette Stockley, says she hopes residents may eventually consider getting rid of their own cars, instead relying solely on the rental fleet.

Congestion in Wincheap, Canterbury. Stock picture: Chris Davey
Congestion in Wincheap, Canterbury. Stock picture: Chris Davey

"We're really pleased that the Canterbury Car Club is hitting the road," she said. "A scheme of this kind is included in our air quality action plan because it has great potential to reduce emissions, so we hope it will be very successful.

"Not only are the vehicles all-hybrid, the scheme also encourages people to only use a car when they need to, rather than using one because it is conveniently sitting outside the house.

"Ditching your own car for a hire vehicle may seem like a big step, but for many people it will only take a few small changes in how they live their life for it to become a viable option. We'd encourage residents to check it out and see how it can work for them."

Richard Falconer, managing director of Co-wheels, says the pandemic has left many people questioning how necessary it is for them to own a car.

"This year has been an eye-opener for a lot of car owners, bringing to life how much time their car has spent parked and the financial burden for those who have had to make cutbacks," he said. "On the whole as a society we are also more aware of the damage petrol and diesel cars are doing to the environment, and our own personal contribution.

"Through schemes like this we’re making it more accessible for people to have the option to hire a car when they need it rather than having to own a vehicle and avoid the hassle that comes with car ownership. It’s far cheaper and better for the environment this way.

"We are pleased to support the positive steps being taken in Canterbury to reduce carbon emissions in the city with the launch of this new car club. This is our second all-hybrid club as part of our vision to be the greenest car club in the UK."

Bookings can be made through the Co-wheels website or app. Members can also book cars in any of Co-wheels’ locations around the UK.

Keys are not needed, as members are provided with a smartcard to access the vehicles.

For more information on the new Canterbury car club and to become a Co-wheels member, visit its website.

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