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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

With rental cars in short supply, enterprising car owners have amassed their own small fleets of automobiles, renting them out to travelers at a premium.

A snapshot: If you need a car in Boston for a weekend in mid-October, you can rent a Ford Fiesta hatchback from Budget for about $500 — or pay the same for a Maserati Quattroporte from Turo.com, a car-sharing site.

Why it matters: Turo and other peer-to-peer car-sharing services like Getaround and Avail have made it easy for the average Joe or Jane with a few underutilized vehicles at home to compete with major rental car firms.

  • The disintermediators are even offering bonuses of up to $2,000 per vehicle for car owners to add to their fleets.

The big picture: The pandemic wreaked havoc on the car rental business.

  • Rental car companies sold off hundreds of thousands of vehicles when people stopped traveling, but now can't replenish their fleets fast enough, due to supply constraints in the auto industry.
  • That's when private car owners stepped in, through sites like Turo and Getaround.

The intrigue: Turo used to market itself as a side gig for people to make extra income, or as a way for car buyers to stretch their budget to afford a fancier model.

  • The pitch: Rent your car out for a few days a month, and you can easily cover that higher car payment.

But now, Turo is helping enterprising small-business owners manage multi-vehicle fleets.

  • Lazaro Vento is an example: He lists 22 vehicles for rent in Miami, including a Ferrari, a Tesla and multiple BMWs, Audis and Jeeps.
  • In a particularly good month recently, he pocketed a $30,000 profit.
  • Seven years ago, he was broke, living on a friend's couch. Today, he manages close to 100 Airbnb properties, along with his fleet of Turo cars, sometimes packaging them together.
  • "When you get to a place, the car is waiting for you — it really makes you feel like a VIP," he tells Axios.

Flashback: Turo CEO Andre Haddad saw the same dynamics play out during previous stints at iBazar and eBay.

  • "One of the universal truths of online marketplaces is that they typically start with consumers and then find a way to migrate to small businesses," he tells Axios.
  • Airbnb, for example, started off by letting people rent their couch or spare bedroom to travelers. Now many of its properties are professionally managed.

What to watch: Last month, Turo filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO listing.

The bottom line: Car-sharing in North America is projected to exceed $4.8 billion by the end of 2024, per Graphical Research — good news for entrepreneurs looking to pocket a little extra money.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with the correct spelling of iBazar.

Go deeper

Your electric car could become a virtual power plant

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

That electric car parked in your driveway may soon be more than a fun, emissions-free ride. When lashed together in the cloud with other EVs in your neighborhood, it could help utilities manage electricity demand in your community.

Why it matters: Massive growth in electric vehicle adoption which is widely expected — means that more car owners will be plugging in at home, putting pressure on America's electric grid but creating power-sharing opportunities at the same time.

  • Emerging smart-charging technologies aim to build in more flexibility so grid upgrades aren't needed and EV owners will have all the juice they need.

What's happening: EV owners can earn rebates and cash rewards from smart-charging programs by letting utilities control when their car is charged based on overall electricity demand.

  • In Texas, for example, about 1,000 EV owners participate in a smart-charging project with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
  • Together, those cars serve as a cloud-based "virtual power plant" that ERCOT can use to suck or store energy during demand peaks and valleys.
  • In Wisconsin, Madison Gas and Electric shifts charging times for 200 EVs to off-peak hours so they can soak up renewable energy generated overnight by wind farms.
  • Both utilities license the smart-charging technology from a London-based company called ev.energy, which has offices in Palo Alto.

The big picture: EV owners do more than 80% of their charging at home, according to a BloombergNEF analysis of ev.energy data from more than 1 million at-home charging sessions in the U.S., U.K. and Europe.

  • Most of them plug in after work, start charging right away, and stay plugged in overnight, often setting the departure time for their morning commute.

Yes, but: The typical charging session requires just a little top-off — 2.5 hours of charging — which means most EVs are drawing energy in the early evening when residential demand is at its peak and electricity rates are highest.

Smart-charging technology can delay charging until demand has gone down, and greener, cheaper energy is more readily available.

  • That lets utilities balance electricity demand while also maximizing the use of renewable energy and putting more money in EV owners' pockets.
  • An EV owner in California could save an estimated $600 per year charging at off-peak times, BNEF found.

How it works: EV owners plug in their car, set a departure time using ev.energy's app, and let the utility figure out the ideal charging time based on a 24-hour forecast of energy demand.

  • If necessary, the software will pause charging at the utility's request, then resume later.
  • Car owners' flexibility earns them rebates or cash rewards of $5 or $10 a month.

The utility will never drain the car's battery, says Joseph Vellone, head of North America for ev.energy. "Your departure time is the holy grail."

  • "The electricity system is incredibly complex. EV buyers can’t be bothered to immerse themselves in this complexity. We ask them one question: What time do you need your car charged by?"

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Madison Gas and Electric shifts charging times for 200 EVs to off-peak hours for maximum efficiency, not 2,000 EVs. A partner company, ev.energy, reached out to say there was a numerical mistake in the report it shared with Axios.

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.