— By Joanne Tucker

BMW Group has expanded its DriveNow program to San Francisco, the first U.S. city to be included in the car sharing program that first launched in Germany last year.

San Francisco’s DriveNow includes 70 BMW ActiveE all-electric vehicles, according to the announcement made on Aug. 20 at a press conference with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

“San Francisco is the ‘Innovation Capital of the World' and the car sharing and EV Capital of America," said Mayor Lee at the press conference. "I am pleased that BMW has chosen San Francisco as the first U.S. site for its innovative services and has launched their program entirely with electric vehicles."

Stacy Morris, BMW North America spokesperson, told Auto Rental News that DriveNow in San Francisco, which launched in June, was made possible through private partnerships with parking garages across the city. She did not disclose the details of the contracts, but said the partnerships are far more than “just renting out parking spaces,” since the parking and valet lot attendants are responsible for answering consumer questions about the program, as well as making sure the ActiveE vehicles are fully charged.

The 70 vehicles are available at eight locations, with additional locations in Palo Alto, Calif. and the San Francisco International Airport on the horizon.

Interested users can register online (www.drive-now.com) or on location. Available ActiveE’s can then be booked through the website or a mobile app.

Vehicles can be returned to any one of the DriveNow locations, which are near BART, MUNI and the city’s bike-sharing stations. As well, through a partnership with California-based Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint network, users can charge their ActiveE at any of the ChargePoint stations, while parking and charging is free at the DriveNow stations.

It was also announced that the program’s CEO is Richard Steinberg.

BMW’s DriveNow first launched in three German cities in partnership with Sixt AG; however, the San Francisco program is not a joint service with Sixt as it is in Germany, though the car rental company is providing technical support for the U.S. program, according to Morris. 

In terms of a timeline on expanding DriveNow to other cities, Morris said that moving out to additional areas is in BMW’s long-term plan, but that it is too early to tell when or where. “Factors including housing density, parking availability and access to public transportation are all crucial elements,” she said. “A key aim is to reduce infrastructure strain in these cities, particularly by reducing the time taken to find a parking space.”

Solving urban parking issues is another BMW goal, as the company also announced at the press conference the all-new ParkNow, an online mobile parking program that will launch September in San Francisco and is in partnership with Urban Mobility.

More information on BMW’s mobility services can be found at http://www.bmw-i.com/en_ww/mobility-services/.

You can see a video from BMW i below: