Electric car-sharing comes to BPC building

Photo by Bill Egbert Downtown Express reporter Colin Mixson, at left, took one of the Solaire’s BMW i3 Series electric cars for a spin around Lower Manhattan with BMW Master of Science Marvin Pueth, at right.
Photo by Bill Egbert
Downtown Express reporter Colin Mixson, at left, took one of the Solaire’s BMW i3 Series electric cars for a spin around Lower Manhattan with BMW’s Marvin Pueth, at right, whose actual tile — on his business card — is “Master of Science.”


A car-sharing service previously only available in Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn made its Downtown debut on Dec. 8 at the Solaire building on River Terrace, marking in Battery Park City as the hippest neighborhood in Manhattan.

Reach Now, the American branch of German car manufacturer BMW’s car-sharing subsidiary, brought a small fleet of Beamers to the swank riverfront building in what could eventually become one of the main ways Manhattanites get around.

Use of the six BMWs — including two of its 3 Series, an entry-level luxury sedan, along with four of the its battery-powered coops, the i3 —  will be exclusive to renters at the Solaire and Verdesian buildings, but if the rental service is a success there, Reach Now plans to expand to other buildings throughout Lower Manhattan, according to the CEO.

“We’re starting here at the Solaire, but talking to other developers to see if there are other places in Lower Manhattan where we can put small fleets that are dedicated to the people that live in those buildings, or potentially even with office buildings for people who work there,” said Reach Now CEO Steven Banfield.

The Seattle-based BMW subsidiary recently launched its first foray to the East Coast in Brooklyn as a free-floating rental service, where patrons can pick up and drop off vehicles at any legal parking spot within the rental service’s designated “Home Area.”

Parking concerns, however, have prevented Reach Now from bringing a free-floating service to Downtown, leading the company to opt for its more limited, building-based “Fleet Solutions” model now available at the Solaire as its best way to expand in Manhattan, Banfield said.

That doesn’t mean a free floating service is entirely off the table, and the company plans on testifying at an upcoming City Council transportation committee hearing along with other representatives of the car sharing industry on Dec. 12, where the challenges of and solutions to bringing Reach Now to Manhattan streets will be discussed.

“We certainly would love to look at bringing a service like this to Manhattan, but due to the parking regulations and the complexity of parking here, we’d really have to work closely with the city and we want to be a partner with that,” Banfield explained.

BMW chose to debut Reach Now at the Solaire in large part due to the building’s high rating with the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which jived well with the German carmaker’s new focus on environmentally friendly electric autos, according to a spokesman.

“We’re focused on mobility services, sustainable solutions, and that kind of thing, so they’re of a like-mind that BMW and Reach Now are rooted in,” said Phil DiIanni.

The service costs renters 49 cents for each minute the car is in use, and 30-cents when parked. Registering with Reach Now requires a one-time fee of $39. Solaire and Verdesian residents use an app to reserve one of the Beamers, and then go downstairs to pick it up from the parking valet who brings it up from the underground garage. A keyless system allows the renters to unlock and start the cars with the same keycards they use to get into their buildings.