Paris to introduce self-service electric vehicles

City officials are announcing Thursday which of three companies or partnerships has been chosen to run Autolib’, an automobile-sharing program modelled on Paris’s successful, three-year-old bicycle-sharing program, Velib’.

Although the electric vehicles are designed for short trips around town, they have a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of slightly over 150 miles. Drivers who sign up for the program will pay a monthly fee of €12 ($16); the cars cost €5 for the first hour of use and €6 for each additional half-hour. The rental rates are set to encourage short trips within urban areas.

City Hall spokesman Damien Steffan said the service, set to begin in Paris and nearby suburbs by the end of 2011, will make Paris the first major world city with a car-sharing program of its size.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe will name on Thursday the winner of a yearlong selection process to choose the operator in a news conference at which details of the program are also expected to emerge.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, has announced that the city authorities have selected a four-seat electric car produced by the French company Bolloré, run by the charismatic industrialist and businessman Vincent Bolloré.

The Bluecar, designed by Bolloré’s Italian partners Pininfarina, is powered by a lithium metal polymer battery created by the company allowing them to travel about 250 km (155 miles) between charges. The lithium ion batteries will take four hours to charge.

With a maximum speed of 130kph (approximately 80mph) and acceleration of 0 to 60 in a snail-like 6.3 seconds the blue car will not break any records, but is designed for short journeys around town for the 58 per cent of Parisians who do not own a car and the additional 16 per cent who own a car but use it less than once a month.

The electric cars are to be positioned at 1,000 stations in metropolitan Paris and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users will have to have a driver’s licence and pay a subscription fee to borrow one of the cars.

Velib’ makes available more than 20,000 bikes at nearly 1,500 stations around the city and nearby suburbs. Infrequent users can pay by credit card, while subscribers pay a yearly fee of $33 to have access to the bikes.