An increasing number of companies in Canada are looking to a "shared" and "green" option for company use of cars. Some companies and organizations have chosen to buy into a car-sharing program for corporate use with the option that staff members can purchase discount share memberships for personal use, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Karo Group is one such company that decided to purchase a shared, fuel-efficient vehicle for employee use. Karo's offices in Vancouver and Calgary offer employees use of a Smart car that also acts as a mobile banner for Karo.

Karo Group bought the car last year. It made sense to have one fuel-efficient car that could be signed out by employees needing transportation for client visits and other purposes. But the company went one step further allowing any employee to request the car for personal use.

The BC Forest Safety Council is another company using car sharing services. The council is among 150 companies and organizations that have signed up for shared access to the cars of the Vancouver-based Co-operative Auto Network (CAN). As North America's second car-sharing program launched in Vancouver in 1997, CAN now has 225 vehicles including the hybrid Toyota Prius, pickup trucks, SUVs and soon, a Lexus.

CAN executive director Tracey Axelsson says sign up by businesses and organizations is growing tremendously for the not-for-profit car co-op. The City of Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and BC Women's Hospital are among the latest to move toward co-op vehicles instead of owning cars for business use.

"The cost of owning and operating vehicles is grossly expensive and so is the cost of fuel," Axelsson says. "For businesses, this is an effective company car program which works well."

Last year, the car sharing business in Vancouver became competitive. Zipcar, an American-based company, chose Vancouver as its eighth North American market. Zipcar has more than 100 vehicles available in the city for business and personal use. There is an hourly or daily charge that includes insurance, gas, designated parking and up to 150 kilometers of driving in a 24-hour period, according to the Vancouver Sun.