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Deutsche Bahn goes door-to-door with electric cars

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Deutsche Bahn goes door-to-door with electric cars
A charger plugged into an electric car owned by Flinkster, DB's car-sharing subsidiary. Photo: DPA
11:05 CET+01:00
Most people probably wouldn't think of Germany's national rail operator as the most likely organization to put you at the wheel of an electric car. But Deutsche Bahn (DB) is to pilot a hire scheme from this week in Berlin.

Passengers travelling to the capital on long-distance trains will be able to book an electric car for when they arrive starting this week, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Monday.

The cars themselves will be provided by DB subsidiary Flinkster, one of Germany's largest car-sharing services alongside BMW and Sixt's DriveNow and Daimler's Car2Go.

Its fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles currently stands at 700 nationwide.

"We've planned the first phase of 'Flinkster Connect' consciously as a test," DB director Berthold Huber said.

Adding electric car rental to your train ticket will cost €29, with customers able to hang on to their borrowed wheels for up to a week.

And DB hopes that doing away with charges for registration and distance travelled will make their offer attractive compared with traditional car rental firms.

Customers will simply have to show their driver's license at a DB information desk the first time they use a car.

"The goal is to extend the availability and offer [the service] in other cities too," Huber said.

Hard times for DB

But DB's latest move isn't just about caring for the environment or offering customers a better service.

It's a response to the fierce competition the traditional rail operator faces from all kinds of other transport options.

While in the early 90s there were around 30 million cars on German streets, today's figure has increased by roughly 50 percent to around 45 million.

And car-sharing, deregulated long-distance buses, and short- and long-distance ride-along services like Uber or BlaBlaCar have each taken their own chunk of DB's traditional customer base.

"We want to be an integrated mobility provider," director Huber told the SZ. "We have to be able to offer the best mix of mobility for every individual journey requirement.

"An unsatisfied customer will sooner or later turn his back on us and look for alternatives."

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