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Tony Hsieh Bets on Tesla for Las Vegas Carsharing Program

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye

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The Rise Of The Sharing Economy

Can the rise of the sharing economy include a city in the desert known for casinos, conferences and weekend debauchery? Las Vegas and collaborative consumption may seem odd in the same sentence, but Tony Hsieh is investing big money to launch the sharing economy in his adopted Sin City. The founder of Zappos recently launched Project 100, which he hopes transforms transportation in downtown Las Vegas and surrounding neighborhoods. Recently, Project 100 signed an agreement to include 100 Tesla Model S cars as part of this futuristic, 100 percent “complete transportation system.”

The agreement, according to Project 100, is the largest U.S. reservation in Tesla’s history. The Model S fleet will complement Project 100’s vision of featuring over 100 shared cars with over 100 on-demand drivers, 100-plus shared bicycles and 100-plus shuttle bus stops. All of these services will be available to monthly subscribers who can access these services via a smartphone app.

Think of Project 100 as a high-end Zipcar or Uber that will encourage well-heeled Vegas residents to ditch their cars and become more integrated within their community. The membership will cost about $400 a month (Zipcar is $50 plus individual rental and mileage fees) and include the option to have a driver take a member to his or her destination. Depending on each subscriber’s needs, memberships will be priced according to how far the member wishes to travel away from downtown Vegas.

So why Las Vegas, a city with a highly transient population including folks who stay there part-time in a vacation home? Well, if this scheme can work in Vegas, it won’t stay just in Vegas. And with Hsieh at the helm, Project 100 hopes to “increase collisions between people” and encourage residents to go about town, meet more people, become more invested in their community, and therefore create a happier and more innovative local environment. Project 100’s long term vision is to replace that one car key with a complete party package.

Project 100 selected Teslas because of the “cool” factor and the desire to replace conventional gasoline-powered vehicles with ones less harmful to the environment. Of course, the challenge of going with a 100 percent EV fleet is that Project 100 will have to invest in a vehicle charger infrastructure to ensure the service will work smoothly for subscribers.

So can Project 100 succeed? Will the same members intrigued by commuting by chauffeured Teslas also be interested in spending an afternoon bicycling in 110°F heat? And how will Project 100 staff a team of drivers who must be ready at any moment to drive someone to a local nightclub or grocery store--and in the meantime could be standing around for hours? The option of hopping a “party bus” sounds great at first, but for residents who actually work for a living, it could grow old fast. With Hsieh leading this effort, however, Project 100 has a greater chance at succeeding based on his past successful track record--and therefore make Vegas a happier place.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. At Better4Business in Anaheim on May 2, he will join a panel discussing how companies can present their CSR initiatives to the media. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit: Tesla]