Dec 112011

Rent Electric with Autolib

The French capital is often described as the most romantic city in the world. Now it has also severely boosted its green credentials with the launch of the new Autolib program which allows people in Paris to rent electric vehicles at a small hourly fee.

Autolib Electric Car Hire Kiosk Paris

Autolib Electric Car Hire Kiosk Paris

250 Bluecars launched

Starting at the beginning of December, the program has seen the launch of 250 Bluecars, as they are known, with a total of 2000 expected on Paris’s cobbled streets by the summer of 2012, and 3000 by the end of 2013. The vehicles are compact using a lithium metal polymer battery that the producers – Pininfarina of Italy and Groupe Bollore of France – say can do a huge 150 miles on a single charge.

1200 charging stations installed

This overcomes one of the major hurdles presented by electric vehicles – that they simply cannot get far enough without a time-consuming recharge – and the developers hope the other major problem of a lack recharging stations has been solved too. The program has seen 1200 charging stations installed so far and more are expected.

Users pay subscription

So how does this system work? Well, the idea is based on users paying a subscription fee that can last for as little as a week and as long as one year, with discounts built in the longer the user commits. After that, drivers pay a one-off hourly rate each time they use the vehicles. Unlike popular bicycle rental systems that have sprung up in major cities across the globe in recent years, including in London, the car conundrum also involves added paperwork due to the need for a driving license. The Autolib system is fairly straightforward. Users sign up online with their credit car, ID and drivers license details before starting the program. Already a few thousand users have joined the scheme, which includes a number of benefits.

No deposit required

The most obvious attraction of the scheme is that it requires little in the way of a down-payment or initial investment, as is the case with a car purchase. These compact cars also receive special treatment in Paris thanks to special parking spaces reserved for Bluecars only, a major advantage in a city with a metro area of 12 million people where parking spaces are notoriously difficult to find. Should drivers need any help with their vehicles, there are 40 special kiosks across Paris with service people that can offer assistance.

Mobility Scheme in Switzerland

It is by no means the first scheme of its kind. In Switzerland the car hire company Mobility offers electric cars  at centers across the country, while in Germany there are small pilot programs in Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. What makes the Paris Autolib program different is the size of it and its future ambition, such as the scale of the scheme, and the infrastructure associated with it. Representatives from across the world have already come to the French capital to see how it gets on.

Paris Autolib BlueCars - Electric Car Hire

Paris Autolib BlueCars - Electric Car Hire

Can it work?

Success is far from guaranteed at this stage but this remains an exciting experiment. Previously the world auto market has been dominated by a purchase-only, fossil fuels model. Can the Parisian program go some way to turning this model on its head?

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