By Jody McCutcheon
Like all neighbouring cities over time, Paris and London have engaged in some friendly competition. So when London Mayor Boris Johnson saw how well the Paris Autolib electric-car-sharing system worked, he wanted his city to enjoy the same benefits.
The largest, most successful such system worldwide, Autolib is the brainchild of French billionaire Vincent Bolloré. The network boasts upwards of 2,000 electric Bluecar rental units roaming les rues of gay Paree. Since the program’s inception in 2011, Paris Autolib has accumulated 40,000 subscribers, and the vehicles have incurred some 2.3 million uses. Rentals cost as little as €11 per hour. The Bluecar is a four-seater, three-door hatchback sporting a 30kWh lithium polymer battery, with an e-range of 250km and a top speed of 130km/h.
Historically, Bolloré has manufactured the Bluecar in partnership with Pininfarina, which also designs Ferraris and Maseratis. Going forward, Bolloré will team with Renault to make the Bluecar at a Renault factory in Dieppe.
Mayor Johnson launched London’s own e-car-sharing service, Source London, in 2011. But drivers have found the charging network to be somewhat sketchy, with broken or malfunctioning chargers commonly encountered, or other vehicles blocking the park-charge spaces. Fed up with Source London’s lack of reliability and accountability, not to mention the inconvenience faced by e-car drivers, Johnson is hoping Bolloré and Autolib can import their Paris success to London. He also wants to increase the city’s number of e-charging pods from 1,400 to 6,000 by 2018.
Autolib’s proposed expansion to London is good for Londoners, and of course for England’s environment. There’s also talk of Autolib considering expanding to Asia, where clean technology is much needed. Another potential destination is the US—Indianapolis, specifically, home of the famous Indianapolis 500 race.
Sure, there are some green auto rental schemes in place around the world already – the fabulously popular Zipcar in America comes to mind – but some healthy competition in the car sharing market is undoubtedly a good thing. Just ask the planet.