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Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

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The simplest and quickest way to join or to register as a driver for your employer is online. Just click here to join

As long as you have held a full driving license for a minimum of 12 months and have no more than 6 points on your license (0 points if 21 or under), you can join (some other exclusion apply, so if in doubt, give us a call to check)

We're not going to tie you into anything! If it's not working for you, or your circumstances change, you can cancel your membership with immediate effect and we'll refund your insurance deposit if you paid one.

Anyone who lives at the same address can be added as a driver onto your account for a one off fee. For businesses, you can register any employees you want to be able to drive our cars, again for a one off fee per new driver.

Members can book on-line through Co-Wheels main website here or by telephone on 0845 602 8030.

Access to our cars shouldn't be a problem. We calculate the optimum number of members per car so you should always be able to make a booking when you need to. If you book at the last minute, it may be harder to get a car at the exact time you need it, which is why we encourage you to plan ahead when feasible.

You can book up to 12 months in advance, or with 1 minute's notice, either on-line or over the phone.

Our minimum booking is 1 hour, our maximum is 1 week. When you make your booking, you will be able to see which cars are available at the times you require. The vehicles are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can cancel or change a booking at any time. If you leave it until the very last minute, though, we may have to charge you a fee.

Firstly, as a membership organisation, we all have a part to play in making sure that the car club runs smoothly. But in the unlikely event that the car isn't in its space when you arrive to pick it up, we'll get an alternative means of transport to you straight away. If we need to get you a taxi for your trip, we will, and you will only pay car club charges.

You will find that we are cheaper than taxis, or a second car, or hire cars, or pay-by-the-minute cars. There are no hidden costs or small print. Our prices are all listed here

Yes. As a Co-wheels member, you will be covered by our fully comprehensive policy. If you have an accident that is your fault, the excess is £250 for drivers over 21 and £500 for drivers 21 and under. Our policy covers personal and business use.

Car hire is charged for the time period of the entire booking (not just driving time), plus mileage. Our system automatically works out the cheapest rate for you – either per hour, overnight, day rate, or a combination.

  • When you apply, you provide us with card details (Mastercard or Visa only) 
which is your payment method.
  • Any charges to the account will be automatically debited from this card 
via Continuous Payment Authorisation, although you will receive extended notice of any unexpected charges, such as a fine. When you book a car online, payment will be taken two hours before your booking for the hire cost. Payment for your mileage, and any adjustments to the booking during it 
will be taken up to 24 hours after your hire ends.
  • Members who joined before 21st July 2014 will be billed monthly for their 
monthly minimum charge or car use and mileage. Members can elect to pay 
by direct debit, card payment over the phone, bank transfer, or cheque.
  • Hourly booking fees will be taken two hours before the booking start time. If 
you make a booking less than two hours before a booking starts, the fees will be taken immediately. Once you have ended your booking, and the vehicle has sent us information about your trip, your mileage charge will be billed along with any adjustments. If there were no problems with the booking, your card will usually be charged within 24 hours of the end of the booking. In the unlikely event of a delay in retrieving mileage data, you may be billed a few days after your hire has ended.
  • Your £5 minimum monthly spend is charged to your card on the first day of every month. This will be credited against any booking you make during that month.

We know that sometimes, plans change and cancellations will occur, and we are happy to offer a full refund if you cancel up to two hours before your booking is due to start.

Driving credit is added to your account by Co-wheels, and can be used against hourly car hire charges. Any driving credit available can be viewed in your account. Hire charges are automatically deducted from your driving credit before your usual billing method. Driving credit does not count toward monthly minimum spends, and cannot be used to pay for mileage, which is billed separately. 


Driving credit can typically be accrued via the use of promotional codes upon application to Co-wheels, or by referring a friend to the car club. It is possible to accumulate driving credit over time, provided that you fulfil the requirements to receive further credit.

If we are unable to take payment for a trip, your account will be restricted, and you won’t be able to use any vehicles, or make future bookings, until the issue is resolved. When you log on to your member area, you will be prompted to pay the outstanding balance. You can either use your existing card details, or provide details of a new card. Once you have successfully paid the balance, any restrictions on your account will automatically be lifted.

You can update your payment details anytime under the ‘Billing’ section of the ‘Booking’ home page.

If you receive a parking ticket, speeding notification, or bus lane/toll charge,

Co-wheels will receive notification of this at our Head Office. We will contact you on the same day that we receive the PCN, with further instruction on how to proceed.
Please note that you are liable for full charge of any PCN, and in addition, any subsequent administrative charges from leasing companies.

Co-wheels is required by law to pass on the details of offending drivers to the relevant authorities. Any offences committed by one of our drivers are solely the responsibility of the driver, and not that of Co-wheels.
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Our cars are cleaned regularly inside and out, and should always be in good order. Members are expected to leave our cars as they find them, and be considerate to fellow drivers. It's unlikely that you'll find our cars looking messy, but if it happens, let us know and we'll charge the guilty party with a cleaning fee.

Smoking is not allowed. If we find evidence of smoking the offending member will be barred from the car club.
 Air fresheners must not be used in the cars as these are a serious irritant to those with breathing issues like asthma. Our cars are steam cleaned every fortnight.
 No pets in the cars please.

Certainly! When you join Co-wheels in Birmingham, you are automatically entitled to book any Co-Wheels vehicle in the UK. There is a national network so members can travel to other locations by train and then hop into a Co-wheels car at the other end.

Our Member Car Scheme offers members and potential members the opportunity to convert their car into a Co-wheels car. This has proven to be a great way to start new car clubs and expand existing fleets.

We have roadside assistance cover which protects all of our members. If you break down, contact us straight away and we'll get someone out to you.

The vehicle will be in its designated spot - if you look at our location pages it will give a precise address where each car is kept. Read more

Simply hold your membership card in front of the reader in the windscreen to lock or unlock the car. The ignition keys are inside. (Please note, the on-board computer will only let you do this if you have already booked the car for that time)

We ask all members to leave the car with a quarter of a tank of fuel at the end of their booking, so you shouldn't need to refuel straight away. If you do need to refuel, use the fuel card provided and we pick up the bill.

The Nissan Leaf may need to be charged during your hire time, please read the following Charging the Cars FAQ
Charging at Home

Charging away from home

This car must be plugged in to the charger whenever it is parked at Bournville Community Hub, so that it is fully charged for the next user.

Firstly, make sure you're in one piece! Then contact us on the emergency contact number immediately, and we'll make sure that you and the car get home quickly and safely. If the accident was your fault, you will have to pay the excess, and the rest will obviously be covered.

You can travel abroad in a Co-wheels car, with correct documentation and breakdown cover.
* Firstly, you must book the car before applying to take it abroad.

  • You will then need to complete a RACV103b Form (If you require an alternative V5 document in the country that you are travelling to e.g. France) , with an accompanying letter of authorisation from us.
  • You will need to source your own breakdown, or pay us to add the breakdown onto the vehicle. (Please call us as some of our vehicles have EU breakdown included, but not all of them)

Please note that you are liable for costs associated with this process and to ensure the vehicle meets the legal requirements of the country that you are travelling to.

Please remember to switch everything off before you leave the car. We get a lot of flat batteries, especially in the winter. Our cars go for mainly short journeys and the telematics run off the battery.

If you want to hire a particular car for a for more than a day but you find it is unavailable on a Tuesday or Wednesday it may be that the car is booked out for cleaning and maintenance. Please contact us on 0121 288 4882 and we will re-arrange with Dan our lovely car clean man and free up the car for your booking.

If you find that your longer booking is blocked by another member’s short booking, please contact us: we may be able to swap the cars around to suit everyone.

The car should be fully charged but if you are going on a long journey you may need to stop for a top up. It’s a good idea to plan your journey. The on board sat nav screen has info on the nearest charge points and www.zap-map.com, is really useful.

BEFORE YOU START
 Make sure the car is not plugged into the charging unit! See “HOW TO CHARGE / STOP CHARGING THE CAR” for a guide to disconnecting.

THERE’S NO KEY!
 This car will drive if you are logged in with your Co-wheels smartcard. To log in / out, hold your smartcard next to the blue square reader on the windscreen. (It works from inside or outside)

IT’S AN AUTOMATIC...
...so you use your right foot to accelerate and brake - just like a petrol automatic car. Rest your left foot - you only need it when you park up, to engage /

disengage the parking brake.

STARTING THE CAR

1. On the lower left side of the steering wheel is a starting
button. With your right foot on the brake pedal, press it once. The dashboard will light up with a nice bit of “Trekie” music. You will see a green car icon with a double arrow. This means the car is operational and ready to go.
No music or lit up display? This means that either you didn’t have your foot
on the centre brake pedal or you have been logged out, in which case use our smartcard to re-log in.

2. Using the gear selector, select Drive by pulling the gear knob towards you and down. A little orange light will indicate you are in forward drive. To Reverse, push the knob forwards.

To disengage the gears for parking (or when you are stopped at traffic lights), press the P button. Parking mode will stop car from rolling backwards if you take your foot off the brake.
The display will show D for drive, R for reverse, P for parking or B for braking mode. (See “ECO DRIVING / EXTENDING THE BATTERY RANGE” for more on Braking mode.)

3. With your right foot on the main footbrake, push down on the parking brake with your left foot and slowly bring your foot up to release it. The parking brake is tucked away on the left side of the driver’s footwell, and you may have to look for it the first time you use this car!

4. Slowly release your foot off the brake pedal and the car will start to move. Use your right foot only to control the accelerator and brake pedals as required. You won’t need to perform hill starts with handbrake as automatics in drive or reverse mode will automatically move when you take your foot off the brake pedal.
Not moving? Is the parking brake (left foot) still on?

HOW TO STOP

1. To stop the car for a very short time (e.g. Traffic queue), put the gear knob into Neutral and press the brake pedal so that you don’t roll back.

2. To stop the car for a couple of minutes (e.g. Traffic lights), press the P button on the gear knob. This stops the car from moving forwards or backwards and you can relax your right foot.

3. To park the car, press the P button on the gear knob and press the parking brake with your left foot.

4. To turn off the engine, press the on/off switch! If you forget, the car will beep when you open the driver door.

Don’t forget take out all your things - remember any CDs - switch off lights, wipers, radio, unplug charging leads and lock the car by holding your smartcard over the reader. Thank you!

This car must be plugged in to the charger whenever it is parked at Bournville Community Hub, so it is fully charged for the next user. 
When charging is complete (takes about 2-4 hours), the charger stops and the blue charging lights go off.

TO UNPLUG THE CAR (car end first, wall socket last)
 Unplug the car end (press the turquoise button on the plug while pulling), close the flap over the socket and push the lid on the bonnet closed.

Then unplug the charging point end (there’s no button, and you may need to pull quite hard).
Put the cable in the boot of the car (there’s a Nissan bag if you want to keep 
it contained). Some public charging points require you to use the car’s own cable. (The cable is also very expensive to replace!). There are wipes in the door pocket to clean your hands if the cable is dirty.

TO PLUG IN THE CAR (car end first, wall socket last)
Open the lid on the bonnet by pressing the button on the dashboard on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. The symbol on the button is a petrol pump with an electric plug.
Open the flap covering the right hand socket.
Take the cable out of the boot and plug in the end with the turquoise button. It will click and beep when it’s in properly.
Then plug the other end into the charging point on the wall. Push it firmly in and the light on the unit will change from blue to green, and the 3 blue lights on the car dashboard will start to flash.

Please read this if you are planning to take our electric LEAF on a longer trip

Green electricity company Ecotricity operate the Electric Highway, rapid charging points across the UK (mainly at motorway service stations, and some IKEA stores).
These charging points used to be free to use, however, Ecotricity have now changed the system so that they can charge for charging - sessions last 30 mins and cost £6 - which will top up our LEAF to run another 70-80 miles.
The Ecotricity card will no longer work on the charging points. You need to use the Electric Highway smartphone app. The app requires your credit or debit card - but if you are an Ecotricity customer, you can still charge for free. We suggest that you download the app before you leave home!

For other charging points there is a Polar / Chargemaster / Charge your car card in the glove compartment which Co-wheels Birmingham currently pays for.

We want charging to be easy for our members so if you find a charging point not covered by the above, please let us know.

The maximum range on a full charge is 80-100 miles.
This depends on your driving style, so motorway driving with the heaters blazing WILL reduce the range. When you select ‘extras’ like cruise control and seat heaters, you will see the available miles reduce instantly.

The approximate number of miles left on the current charge is shown on the lower right of the display.

Use the power meters on the screen behind the steering wheel to help you drive more efficiently: the fewer white dots the better! You can also “grow” little trees at the top of the display.

The car’s regenerative braking system means that as you free wheel or brake, energy is converted into power for the battery and extends the range. This is indicated by the green lights coming on the power meter’s left side.

ECO DRIVING
To extend battery life, you can choose one or both of these modes:

In Braking mode, the regenerative braking system kicks in whenever you take your foot off the accelerator. Choose Braking mode via the gear knob by selecting Drive twice.

In ECO driving mode, the acceleration is slightly reduced (but you will still find it WAY zippier than your average petrol or diesel cars), climate control is reduced and regenerative braking enhanced. To activate, press the ECO button on the steering wheel.


It’s a hybrid - it switches automatically between petrol motor and electric motor, to reduce emissions and save fuel.
The electric motor gets charged up by the petrol motor and by regenerative braking. You don’t need to plug it in to charge.

THERE’S NO KEY!

This car will drive if you are logged in with your Co-wheels smartcard. To log in / out, hold your smartcard next to the square reader on the windscreen. (It works from inside or outside). If the car won’t switch on, look at the telematics display (white box in the upper windscreen) to make sure you are logged in.

IT’S AN AUTOMATIC...
...so you use your right foot to accelerate and brake. Rest your left foot - you don’t need it.

STARTING THE CAR

Check that the handbrake is on. Check that the gear shift lever is in P. Firmly depress the brake pedal with your right foot.The green key indicator will turn on Keep depressing the brake pedal and press the power switch (the large round starting button on the lower right side of the steering wheel). The “READY” indicator will light up on the dashboard display. There may not be any engine sound (electric motors are silent). The car is ready to go.

No lit up display? This means that either you didn’t have your foot on the brake pedal or you have been logged out, in which case use your smartcard to re-log in.

No “READY” light? You may have changed Power shift Mode (by pressing the power switch with the brake pedal released). Press the power switch again, with the brake pedal released, to cycle through the Modes until you get back to READY. (see p 54-55 of the Toyota User Guide book).

With your right foot on the brake pedal, use the gear stick to select Drive or Reverse.

Release the handbrake.

Slowly release your foot off the brake pedal and the car will start to move. Use your right foot to control the accelerator and brake pedals as required. You won’t need to perform hill starts with the handbrake as automatics in drive or reverse mode will automatically move when you take your foot off the brake pedal.

Not moving? Is the handbrake still on?

HOW TO STOP

To stop the car for a very short time (e.g. Traffic queue), put the gear knob into Neutral and press the brake pedal so that you don’t roll back.
To stop the car for a couple of minutes (e.g. Traffic lights), press the P button on the gear knob. This stops the car from rolling forwards or backwards and you can relax your right foot.
To park the car, press the P button on the gear knob and press the parking brake with your left foot.
To turn off the engine, press the on/off switch!

Toyota hybrids have four drive modes: Normal, EV, ECO and Power. When 
you first start your hybrid, the car defaults to the ‘Normal’ drive mode, which automatically manages the most efficient use of both the engine and the battery.

Drivers can also select one of the car’s on-demand drive modes to achieve better fuel consumption in certain settings.

These drive modes are:

EV Mode where the car is powered by the battery only during city driving, running near-silent and with no tailpipe emissions
ECO Mode that reduces A/C output and lessens throttle response to limit harsh

acceleration
 Power Mode which boosts acceleration by using the hybrid battery to assist the petrol engine.

The shift lever offers four positions: R (Reverse), N (neutral), B (engine braking) and D (drive). For normal driving, D (drive) is absolutely fine, but should you need it, position B has the effect of engine-braking, handy when descending a steep hill, for example. It’s not recommended to leave the car in position B for normal driving, mainly because you’d end up using more fuel than necessary.

Use the car’s battery whenever possible in town and urban driving: accelerate to your required speed, ease off the accelerator and then gently ease the accelerator on again. By doing this, you can activate EV mode – indicated by the dashboard light – which means that the engine has switched off and you are using the electric battery.

By accelerating gently and avoiding sharp breaking. Driving at moderate speeds makes a difference - especially on the motorway - and keeping the windows closed avoids drag.

A well maintained car with the correct tyre pressures is important and of course Co-wheels takes care of all that.

HYBRID DRIVING

Become familiar with the hybrid information display so you can know how much energy is being used. The dials and gauges help you to fully understand the hybrid system and manage the charge levels in the high-voltage battery.

Keep the car in EV mode as much as possible by using the accelerator gently, pressing it lightly but consistently.

Improve efficiency with ECO mode, which reduces aggressive throttle response.

Braking gently and early helps the regenerative braking harvest more energy, which means EV mode can operate for longer.

If you’re in stop-start traffic, don’t put the car in neutral (‘N’) when stationary, as electricity will not be generated and the hybrid battery will discharge.

Consider using cruise control to maintain steady speeds.
When using climate control, re-circulate mode reduces energy usage.

Constant or heavy use of systems like air-con, lights and wipers will increase energy consumption.

We are far more flexible than traditional car hire companies. Our prices are transparent and there is no small print to catch you out. But more importantly we are a local community organisation that is not run for personal profit, but to encourage healthy living, reduce car use, and provide a service to people in and around Birmingham. We want to work with our community and regard our members as much more than customers but as colleagues in our goal of changing the way we drive. We are a Birmingham social enterprise, proud to trade for people and planet, not shareholder profit. More information about social enterprise at http://www.socialenterprisewm.org.uk

There are various high street car rental offices in Birmingham, offering the traditional model of car hire by the day. These are more formal and less flexible than a car club. You have to complete forms with a salesperson every time you collect a vehicle, minimum price is for 24 hours, you can’t guarantee which type of car you’ll get, and there are many extra charges - additional driver, insurance excess reduction, etc.

“Vastly less hassle than traditional car hire. Click, wave a smartcard and you’re off! No waiting around while pointy-shoed weasels fail to have the vehicle ready on time, try to up-sell or sting you with insurance/fuel.” (Co-wheels Birmingham Member)

The pricing models between Co-wheels and Enterprise Car Club are very similar, although Enterprise are currently more expensive across the board. Co-wheels is the one operator with clear pricing - the others vary prices according to the booker’s age and seek to up-sell with other packages.