Paris launches Autolib, an electric car sharing service

Paris is launching its first electric car sharing project as it aims to clear its traffic-clogged boulevards. The backers hope the scheme will be a major boost for electric cars. People come to the French capital will be able to enjoy a new public service by leasing electric cars in the urban region from Sunday.

This electric car sharing system is aimed to reduce the number of private cars as well as restrain pollution, according to the Paris municipal government. The plan, dubbed "the Autolib" system, is similar to already functioning "velib system" which is a large-scale public bicycle sharing system in Paris launched in 2007.

The first experimental stage of the Autolib project is said to last two month with 66 cars at 33 stations around the city. Costumers can pay between 5 euros and 7 euros (6.7-9.4 U.S. dollars) for every half-hour use or register for a yearly, weekly or 24-hour package with different cost and necessary identity cards, driving licences and an uncashed deposit.

Once fully charged, the four-seated "Bluecar" can reach a top speed of 130 km an hour and has a range of 250 km with a single charge. In order to encourage short journey rather than long trip around the capital, Paris administration wants to expand the system to a 250-car team by this December, and then to 2,000 by next summer.

The Autolib system is intended to build on the success of the Velib bicycle-rental service, similar to that operating in many European cities. A two-month pilot project will allow motorists to hire the battery-powered Bluecar for 30 minutes at a cost of four to eight euros.

Membership of the Autolib scheme will cost from 10 euros a day up to 144 euros a year. The cars are being provided by entrepreneur Vincent Bollore and manufactured by the Italian designer Pininfarina, famous for sculpting Ferraris and Maseratis.

They will have a range of up to 250 km before a recharge, which will take about four hours. At first, 66 of the four-seater electric vehicles will be available for hire at 33 charging stations.

But Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe intends to expand to 3,000 electric vehicles and more than 1,000 stations by the end of 2012.

"We want to persuade people to shift from the concept of owning a car to that of using a car," Autolib General Manager Morald Chibout told the Reuters news agency.
Plugging in at a charging station The scheme intends to have 1000 charging stations across Paris by the end of 2012. The project gets underway as leading automakers test driver enthusiasm for electric cars on a large scale in Europe.

Renault SA and its Japanese sister company Nissan Motor Company have invested 4 billion euros in electric cars. Carlos Ghosn, who leads Renault and Nissan, has said electric cars could account for 10% of new car sales by 2020.
Short trips

Valentine de la Celle, a 30-year-old Parisian mother of two, does not own a car. "We are doing building work at home at the moment and to take things to the tip I would have to hire a car, which is difficult," she told Reuters.

"But the scheme needs to be quick and simple, otherwise people will not use it." Like the Velib cycle-hire scheme, Autolib’s pricing structure encourages people to rent vehicles only for short journeys. "We are not here to compete against traditional car rental businesses," said deputy mayor Annick Lepetit.