Zipcar Future

Car clubs are to be given £500,000 by the government to help cut congestion and emissions.

The funding from the Department for Transport will support two pilot programmes aimed at promoting far wider access to shared vehicles.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said: "Car clubs cut congestion, reduce carbon and save people money while still giving people the freedom and flexibility to use a car when they want to. Interest in car clubs is already gathering pace and we want to give that interest added momentum.

"This funding will highlight their many advantages to even more people and help take car clubs up a gear."

The number of carless households has been rising since 2005, but because people still value the convenience of a car there are now more than 150,000 car club members in England, and the government is keen to see that number rise even further.

Estimates suggest that one pay-as-you-go car can take the place of 17 individually-owned vehicles, meaning a more efficient use of road space, while car club vehicles also tend to have lower emissions than the average car, said the department.

It is also reckoned that belonging to a car club also encourages people to cycle and walk more frequently, as well as use public transport more often.

The department already funds 48 car club and car-sharing schemes via its Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Baroness Kramer made the announcement during a visit to Norfolk, where she saw a £2.5m government-funded trial run of a smartcard scheme that allows residents to use one card with many of the county's bus operators. She also went to Zenos Cars, which has been given £150,000 towards developing an ultra-light sports car. Those advances are expected to influence the development of electric cars and other ultra-low-emission vehicles.