BMW brings pay-as-you-go scheme to London as 'sharing economy' gains traction

BMW's DriveNow: tapping into the sharing economy through carsharing
BMW's DriveNow: tapping into the sharing economy through carsharing

BMW is set to bring its car sharing scheme, DriveNow, to London next year, as it looks to reap the rewards of the 'sharing economy'.

DriveNow first launched in Germany in 2011 as a joint venture with Sixt before rolling out to San Francisco. Now BMW plans to bring the service to London by early 2015, according to the Financial Times.

The concept is similar to Zipcar, where drivers can log into the DriveNow app or website to pre-book a car in advance, or see whether a vehicle is immediately available.

Unlike Zipcar, which requires a monthly fee, drivers can register for a one-off fee of EUR39 (£30), then hire vehicles for 31 cents (25p) a minute, including sales tax. If they want to park and keep the vehicle, that costs 15 cents (12p) a minute. BMW is offering its BMW i3 electric vehicle and Mini vehicles to hire.

The move comes as the UK government explores the potential of the ‘sharing economy’  - a loose term covering businesses that promote sharing assets rather than owning them.

Holiday rentals company Airbnb and Uber are generally held up as key disruptors in the market, though critics note how the pair aggressively flout local laws to grow their businesses. To that end, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a report that will likely pave the way for rule changes making life for sharing economy companies easier.

BMW plans to roll DriveNow out to 15 European cities outside Germany and in 10 North American markets. According to the Financial Times, DriveNow is the largest car-sharing organisation in Germany at 360,000 customers.

According to its most recent results, Avis-owned Zipcar boasts more than 900,000 members globally and around 10,000 vehicles across the UK, US, Austria, Canada and Spain.

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