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Zipvan, Zipcar's Van Rental Service, Debuts In San Francisco (VIDEO)

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Car sharing service Zipcar has already fundamentally changed the way hundreds of thousands of people across North America and the United Kingdom get around.

Now, the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm plans to directly challenge truck rental companies like U-Haul with a new pilot program launching in San Francisco offering van rentals in addition to its normal car rental options.

The company will being offering Ford E-150 cargo vans for $14.75 per hour and just under $100 per day. Unlike many other rental companies, Zipcar doesn't charge extra for fuel or insurance.

The appropriately named Zipvan service will lunch early next year with 15 vehicles available at selected locations in both San Francisco and Oakland. If the program proves successful, the company plans to expand it to other cities across the country over the next year.

The company already offers vans in the the U.K though a similar company it acquired there called Streetcar; however, San Francisco is the first city in the United States or Canada to get the vans.

"Based on the success we've seen in London and the enthusiasm from our members expressed through our Zipcar member survey, we're thrilled to launch this pilot in San Francisco," said Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith in a press release. "Whether you're planning a move across town or about to make a new purchase for your apartment or a business with an occasional need for a larger vehicle, transporting large items in the city is a real hassle. Zipvan aims to make it more convenient and more affordable to move stuff around."

In an internal survey taken among its users, Zipcar found that 40 percent of them are interested in the van rentals.

The company has long geared its service towards young people and urban dwellers who are naturally comfortable with its online reservation system and often only require an automobile for the occasional trip to the grocery store instead of a daily commute.

The New York Times reports:

Zipcar has built its business in part by catering to college students who would not meet age requirements for regular car rentals. Consequently, serving the legions of early-twentysomethings moving in and out of dorms could help it compete in the van-rental market. Budget tacks on a daily surcharge of $18 for those aged 21 to 23 years old. No such fee applies for Zipvan rentals.

The company boasts over 650,000 members who use approximately 9,500 of its vehicles.

Check out this video of Zipcar's co-founder talking about how the company's pricing model changes the way individuals interact with their urban environment:

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Filed by Aaron Sankin