Car2go N.A. LLC announced it will expand its operating area by 63 percent and increase its current network of vehicles by 50 percent to a total of 300 vehicles. The existing network will be replaced by the world's first specially developed car-sharing production model, the smart "car2go edition," over the weekend of March 19, according to the company.

"We knew Austin was going to be a great city for car2go when we started receiving requests to expand our operating area the first week we launched," according to Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go. "We are excited to give our members what they've asked for by expanding our operating area to a total of 52 square miles and increasing our current network of vehicles."

Since launching as a pilot program in November 2009, car2go has seen more than 150,000 rentals with an average of 4,000 rentals per week, according to the company. In February 2011, car2go achieved the milestone of 500,000 miles driven. With more than 15,000 members, 15 percent of the driving population above the age of 18 in the existing operating area is a car2go member.

Approximately 74,000 additional Austin citizens with driver's licenses above the age of 18 and a number of local businesses will now be included in the extended operating area. Car2go will also exchange its current network of 200 smart fortwo vehicles for 300 smart "car2go edition" vehicles. Together, the companies developed the model as the first vehicle designed specifically for car-sharing.

Every "car2go edition" is outfitted with new telematics hardware, including a new control unit with a large easy-to-use touchscreen. Also, the user interface has been completely redesigned and upgraded, making the menu, radio and navigation system easier to use.

"Our new technology makes car2go stand out even more from the solutions offered by traditional car-sharing companies. It is setting the new standard for shared-use vehicles," according to Helmuth Ritzer, car2go chief technology officer. "The new hardware and software platform allow us to provide new in-car services in the future. As new features become available, the fleet will be automatically updated over-the-air."

Many of the new car2go vehicles in Austin will also be equipped with a 100-watt solar roof, which is fully integrated with the on-board electronics and serves to supply power to the telematics and continually charges the car's battery, according to the company. Additionally, if the vehicle is parked in the sun, solar energy is used to power the ventilation system that reduces the interior temperature to cool the vehicle, reducing fuel consumption.