The socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, and billionaire investor Vincent Bollore, are taking the electric car revolution to another level. They are now deep into planning to create an electric vehicle partnership dubbed as Autolib. Here, they plan to change the current thinking on urban mobility through provision of creative alternatives to pollution contributing cars with the end of improving air quality in the city.
This coming Sunday, the Autolib project would roll out sixty-six ultra compact Bluecars at charging stations throughout the city of lights for a two-month period, to help educate the Parisian masses on the system and gain feedback in order to iron out the issues before the program goes online. In the long run, officials hope to have 3,000 zero emission four seater Bluecars in the streets of Paris. It also aims to have 1,000 charging stations in Paris and surrounding cities by 2012’s end.
It is hoped that the program can convince urban dwellers needing access to a vehicle would not choose ownership and instead use the service to rent the electric vehicles. This saves the Parisian the hassles of paying for fuel, insurance costs, taxes and maintenance on an owned vehicle.
The first step in the program was opened in 2007 and currently the consortium has advertised together with infrastructure building throughout the city and surrounding communities. The program has also allowed individuals to pay a small annual fee to be allowed to use a bicycle up to 45 minutes free of charge. This bicycle program is called Velib and has been successful in Paris. There are now 20,000 bicycles in use and has been profitable despite the thefts and vandalism for some units. This pilot program now goes into the next stage, the Autolib.
Bollore is expected to invest nearly $265 million in Autolib. He would also need to pay €750 for each parking space for the electric vehicles but would receive all the revenues for the milestone electric vehicle program. With current projections Bollore expects to make money only after seven years of operation. Despite such dismal projections, he is upbeat about the project in the long term.
This program would be his flagship to promote his Bluecar vehicle line. The vehicles are built through a joint venture partnership between his Bollore Group and Italian design company Pininfarina. It would also showcase the vehicle’s lithium-metal-polymer batteries which the partnership invested €1.5 billion to develop the technology. The Bluecars beat out Smart and Renault, with a top speed 130 kilometers per hour and with a range of 250 kilometers on a single charge. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 kph in 6.3 seconds. The car uses hybrid-car technology to recycle the energy in braking to recharge the batteries.
Autolib is projected to be the largest and highest profile car-sharing program in the world. It is not the first though, as the Zipcar program in Cambridge, Massachusetts currently has 600,000 members, with 9,000 vehicles serving 28 states in the United States, parts of Canada and the United Kingdom.