Zipcar - which claims to be the world's largest car sharing company - has announced it is launching its service in London.

Zipcar also announced that the company has closed a US$25m round of equity funding, led by Greylock Partners. Globespan Capital Partners also participated in the round as a new investor, and joined existing lead investor, Benchmark Capital, in the new round of funding.

Zipcar says that it will be expanding its business on the back of the new funding, adding new vehicles and locations in its established markets to meet increased demand for Zipcar's service while expanding to new domestic and international cities.

In addition to market expansion initiatives, the company says that the new funding allows Zipcar to continue to 'advance key elements of the company's unique self-service business model, including its proprietary, technology platform, the driving force behind its scalability and award-winning membership experience'.

As a first step, Zipcar is launching a service in London as the centre of its future European operations.

Zipcar will immediately place 25 cars in the boroughs of Chelsea and Kensington, with plans to have 100+ vehicles within London communities by January 2007.

London residents are able to join with no deposit or application fee, paying only GBP50 annually. Zipcar says that the low barrier to membership coupled with a 30-day money back guarantee makes the service a low-risk financial option for most Londoners regardless of income level.

All Zipcar members worldwide will have immediate access to the new London Zipcars, including 2007 Honda Civics, Mini Coopers, and BMW 3-Series.

"Zipcar has proven that car sharing is a viable, high-growth opportunity in cities all across North America," said Bill Helman, partner at Greylock Partners. "We are proud to help such an innovative company to accelerate its growth as it brings the Zipcar experience to markets throughout the world."

According to Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith, London is a forward-thinking city that is a great fit for Zipcar's award-winning car sharing service.

"As one of the largest and most densely-populated cities in the world, London faces complex challenges of traffic congestion and limited parking availability on par with large urban markets like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and others. In these cities, Zipcar has proven its technology, variety of vehicles and superior member experience can create a transportation alternative that replaces privately owned cars, increases the use of public transit, saves money for members, and dramatically improves urban lifestyle."

Zipcar currently operates in London, England and 13 states and provinces in North America, serving more than 80,000 individual and business members with 2,500 vehicles.

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