Car sharing, where drivers can have the use of a car for just a few hours rather than the typical 24-hour minimum, is beginning to attract new users in Japan where use grew by 40% last year. The country now has almost 500,000 registered car sharers.

In Europe and the US, car sharing schemes are well established. Daimler has been operating its Car2Go scheme since 2008 with more than 11,000 Smart ForTwos in 24 cities in Germany and BMW has just announced it plans to expand its DriveNow scheme which uses 2,400 1 Series and Minis in another 25 cities in Europe and the US.

Now Park24, an operator of automated car parks, mainly at bullet train stations, air and sea ports, has said that it plans to increase its car sharing fleet by more than 40% to some 10,000 vehicles by the autumn.

Park24 has bases at 34 of Japan’s 100 bullet train stations and plans to have them at another 13 now and eventually at all of the stations.

It is promoting the service to business travellers and tourists as a cheaper alternative to conventional car hiring because cars can be hired for less than 12 hours.