Got a Chinese drivers license and RMB500 to spare? That means you, too, can be part of what's arguably the most ambitious sharing craze to hit China thus far: cars.
Although they're pricier than your average sharing gimmick (cheaper options include umbrellas, basketballs and phone chargers) and prone to misuse, shared cars can be handy if you're not yet ready to buy a vehicle. What's more, some companies offer environmentally-friendly electric options.
Today, we look at five popular car-sharing companies available in cities across the country.
But first, here's how they work.
The process for renting a car is similar to bike-sharing. After downloading a company's app or following them on WeChat, you'll need to upload essential information such as an image of your license. A hefty deposit (RMB500-1500 for the companies below) is generally also required. After your details have been approved by staff members, you can check to see if there are any shared cars (sometimes at designated pickup-dropoff points) near you.
Then it's simply a matter of reserving the type of car you want, unlocking it with an app or WeChat, and driving off. When you're ready to return it, choose a spot to drop it off, end your ride and pay through whatever app you're using.
Compared to newer entries in the market, Car2Share has models that are a little older but still serviceable. The company targets white-collar workers, and its pickup-dropoff points tend to be near offices. You're required to return your car to the spot where you picked it up, but the deposit is relatively cheap and you can reserve a car on WeChat without downloading a separate app.
Daytime Rate (2015 two-seater): after 30 minutes, RMB6 per half hour plus RMB1.5 per kilometer
Available in: Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen
EVCard was reportedly the first company to offer electric shared-car services in Shanghai, starting all the way back in 2013. After registering an account, users are mailed a physical card. They can use it (or the company's app) to unlock any vehicle they rent. At the end of the ride cars must be returned to a designated dropoff spot.
Daytime Rate (4-door Chery EQ in Shanghai): RMB0.6 per minute, RMB216 for 24 hours
Available in: Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai
3. Pony Car
Pony Car has a major factor working in its favor: it's cheap. Drivers aren't required to park at designated spots, and like Car2Share, you can book your ride directly through WeChat. Vehicles may not be top-of-the-line, but they're electric and definitely stand out from the crowd with colorfully-patterned stickers.
Daytime Rate: RMB0.12 per minute plus RMB0.78 per kilometer
Available in: Shenzhen
Togo's fleet of Smart cars give a smooth driving experience. One major downside: users are required to pay parking fees themselves when pulling out of whatever lot the previous driver chose. Togo reimburses users by offering them credit on the app, but past drivers have complained that it's still not enough.
Daytime Rate (for Smart cars in Shenzhen): RMB15 for the first 30 minutes, then RMB0.28 per minute plus RMB1.88 per kilometer
Available in: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Weihai
Jokes about its name aside, United Journey is a relatively comfortable choice for drivers. It offers car models that are not only electric but also normal-sized. Unfortunately, they're also not as cheap as some of its smaller-sized competitors.
Daytime Rate (Jac IEV5): RMB0.2 per minute, RMB100 cap for 24 hours
Available in: Foshan, Shenzhen