14.10.2011 Paris launches electric car rental scheme
Building upon the success of Paris's popular Velib bike rental scheme, and by extension our Boris Bikes scheme, the City of Lights could soon become the City of Electric Cars.
An innovative new electric car rental scheme has recently launched in France's capital. Known as Autolib (short for 'automobile' and 'liberte'), a fleet of electric bubble-shaped 'Bluecars' have been deployed in Paris's streets.
Parisian Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, came up with the idea, and it now represents the world's first operational public electric vehicle hire initiative. He believes it to be a solution to urban mobility whilst tackling the issue of localised air pollutants in the urban environment.
The scheme is currently in its two month testing phase, and involves 66 vehicles across 10 locations. Plans are in place to provide an additional 250 electric vehicles by December this year, and to introduce a further 2,000 by next summer. By 2013 officials hope to have 5,000 'Bluecars' zipping around Paris.
Vincent Bollore, a billionaire businessman, invested 100 million Euros into the project, and The Bollore Group have developed the Lithium Metal Polymer batteries used in the electric cars. Paris had provided additional funding of 35 million Euros to install rental stations for the cars.
The scheme is expected to be popular as it offers an environmentally friendly, affordable and practical solution to inner city transportation – emitting zero emissions at point of use and travelling in almost silence. The scheme is expected to be treated in a similar fashion to the Velib bike project and London's Boris Bikes scheme, with vehicles rented by the half hour.
Annick Lepetit, in charge of transport at City Hall, praises the new system. She tols the Guardian: "Private cars are expensive and people are using them less and less in cities. We're moving into another culture, the culture of car sharing. It's the same principle as Velib: you use the car, leave it and that's it. Simple."
"I've driven one and they're better than good, they're incredible. They're ecological and economical. It's a real revolution and I can see it being copied in other cities," she added.
If successful, The Bollore Group hopes to extend sales of their electric cars outside of France. The 'Bluecars' can travel up to 80 mph and cover 250 km from just one full charge. More often than not, this will be adequate for a day’s urban driving, especially if the vehicles are left plugged in whilst not in use.
No doubt Boris Johnson will be keeping an eye on the project's success. With his vision for London to become the electric car capital of the world, maybe this is something that we will see being rolled out in the UK. After all, it is a zero emission mobility solution that is cheap to use, compact, practical, comfortable, surprisingly nippy and attention grabbing!
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