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Paris to Launch the World's First Municipal Electric Vehicle Hire Scheme

Parisians will soon be zipping round Charles de Gaulle Etoile in little blue bubble-like cars, as the world's first municipal electric vehicle (EV) hire scheme gets underway. Mayor Bernard Delanoë has pioneered the €110 million Autolib initiative to complement the Vélib bicycles, introduced in 2007. The fleet of 3,000 lithium battery-powered cars is designed by Italian partner Pininfarina, best known for their work on desirable brands like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Manufactured by French company Bolloré, they will be available later this year from 1,000 self-service hire points throughout the city.

The four-seater 'Bluecars' will be able to travel about 250km on one charge, with a full recharge taking around four hours. They're designed for efficiency rather than pace: a top speed of 130km/h won't thrill Jeremy Clarkson. But for people simply wanting a straightforward car to hop across town in, they could be ideal. They come equipped with GPS and an emergency call button in case of an accident.

Subscription to the scheme costs just €12 a month, with additional charges of €5 for the first half an hour of use, €4 for the next, and €6 for each subsequent 30-minute slot. The charging rates are clearly designed to favour single, short-ish trips, rather than compete with mainstream car hire schemes. Bluecar needs to attract just 160,000 subscribers to cover its costs, an achievable feat in a city where 58% of the population do not own a car, and 16% of those who do use it less than once a month.

Low-carbon vehicle designer and entrepreneur Hugo Spowers waxed lyrical about the scheme. "It kills a lot of birds: embodied carbon, congestion from parked cars, the cost [of ownership] to consumers…" Another fan is London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is keen to copy his Parisian counterpart on this scheme, as he did with the bikes. Discussions have opened at the London Assembly, but so far no funds have been allocated.

Photo by Simon Howden.

This article is by Sam Jones and originally appeared in Green Futures, the magazine of independent sustainability experts Forum for the Future.