Do you want a Volt in your life, but all the expense, liability and maintenance that come along with buying or leasing one seems just a bit too 20th century?

Well lucky for you, in the midst of exploring all sorts of other paradigm-changing initiatives, GM is jumping on the carsharing bandwagon with Volts and other OnStar enabled GM vehicles.

The program due to begin early next year will allow GM vehicle owners to rent them to others by the hour in what is touted as a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Carsharing could be another avenue to get more people to experience the Volt.

GM’s “exclusive relationship” with RelayRides announced last week will initially be in Boston and San Francisco, but intentions are for nationwide service as market demand proves it feasible.

"We're using technology to make both our older and newest models carshare ready and available for those owners who choose to participate in carsharing," said Stephen Girsky, GM vice chairman. "Our goal is to find ways to broaden our customer reach, reduce traffic congestion in America's largest cities and address urban mobility concerns."

The way it works is someone with an OnStar equipped GM vehicle that doesn’t get a lot of use, or isn’t being used for what ever reason, can put it up for rent on RelayRide’s Web site. Vehicles not equipped with OnStar can also participate with a device installed by RelayRides.

The owner can then name the vehicle’s hourly rental price – estimated between $5-12 per hour, with all-day reservations starting at $55 and including 160 miles of driving and free gas.

Customers can look for vehicles, make reservations or check future reservations through a smart phone application. They can also locate their reserved vehicle via GPS and lock and unlock the vehicle all through their smart phone – with rules applying, of course.

RelayRides gets some support from Google Ventures and helps makes a case for its business model by saying a vehicle owner could collect $2,300-$7,400 annually.

The company figures savings are substantial for renters too. A chart on its Web site indicates the average expense of car ownership per month is $715 but renting a car as needed is just $100.

Obviously the actual buy versus rent discrepancy depends on the kind of vehicle owned compared to amount of rental time accrued, and other factors would need to be considered as well to determine if it really makes sense for you.

This said, RelayRides apparently has its system pretty well worked out, judging by explanations on its Web site and the fact that GM endorses it.

GM created a graphic of its own to explain how the deal works.

Rentals include a $1,000,000 insurance policy with a $500 deductible – which can be reduced to $250 or $0 via a program requiring renters pay $50 or $75 per year respectively.

“RelayRides has always worked toward providing the safest, most advanced, peer-to-peer carsharing marketplace, where neighbors can help out one another by making their frequently unused car available to those who live nearby,” said RelayRides CEO André Haddad.

Although Haddad speaks of what has “always” been, it should be noted that RelayRides was founded in June 2010.

But according to Innovative Mobility Research , GM notes, “carsharing in North America has grown from 400,000 users in 2009 to 640,000 in July 2011.”

GM further observes that a study from Frost & Sullivan projects carsharing will have an estimated 4.4 million users by 2016.

Would you participate?

We’re pretty sure plenty of people would be willing to rent a Volt to drive this way from time to time, however, assuming it were available in your area, would any of you Volt owners offer your Volt for share?

From what we’ve seen, most Volt owners use them as primary vehicles, but RelayRides has made the Volt the poster child of this new initiative indicating Volts ought to become available.

Of course all GM vehicles are eligible, so what do you think? Is GM onto something here?

GM , RelayRides