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Electric ‘Boris cars’ are coming to London – how do they work in Paris?

Autolib' Electric Cars in France

Autolib’ electric cars in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.


Powered by article titled “Electric ‘Boris cars’ are coming to London – how do they work in Paris?” was written by Jon Henley in Paris, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th July 2014 14.18 UTC

Jean-Philippe Wailliez, who runs a small wine business in Paris, finds he uses one “actually pretty regularly. Three, four times a week, maybe, instead of the metro or the commuter train. It really is a very useful service. Especially when I have to make deliveries.”

Emanuelle Buet is on her way to an urgent, unscheduled meeting on the other side of town, further from a metro station than any self-respecting Parisian would ever want to walk. “I have a car, but it’s in the multi-storey 10 minutes away,” she says. “It’ll take forever to get out, and twice as long again to find somewhere to park at the other end.”

Sarah Maurel and her colleague have just used one for the first time. “Brilliant,” she says. “We had a client briefing in Champigny-sur-Marne, and a train strike. Thirty minutes there, 40 back, way cheaper than a taxi. It took time to get used to – the brakes are a bit sensitive. But very happy.”

By any measure – including, judging from a random sample quizzed on the pavement last month, customer satisfaction – Paris’s Autolib’ electric car sharing scheme is looking like a success. Membership is up from 5,650 a month two-and-a-half years ago to 155,000 today. Between them, those members have clocked up the fairly remarkable total of 30.4 million miles. The service’s 2,500 Bluecars – hitting 3,000 by the end of this year – are now averaging a total of well over 10,000 rentals every day.

“We’re pleased,” says Véronique Haché-Aguilar, managing director of Autolib’ Métropole, which groups the 63 town councils in and around Paris that operate the scheme. “The main aim was to cut air pollution and reduce the load conventional cars place on the city, but still give people an easy option to use a car when they really need one. I think we’re making progress.”

Launched as a complement to Velib’, the municipal cycle-sharing scheme set up in Paris in 2007 by former Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Autolib’ was first mooted in 2009, opened for service – with 250 cars – in December 2011, and has since expanded to Lyon (as Bluely) and Bordeaux (Bluecub) in France, and Indianapolis in the United States. As Source London, a commercial proposition of which Transport for London is “supportive”, it will be arriving in the British capital next year.

Electric Cars

Vincent Bollore with one of his electric cars. Monthly membership in London will cost around £10, with a £5 fee per half hour’s rental. Photograph: Reuters

BlueSolutions, the French company behind the schemes, will start modestly in London: just 100 cars around the capital from March 2015, using the city’s existing network of 1,400 electric charging points. It aims to build up gradually to around 3,000 cars by 2018, providing people take to it and local councils co-operate by freeing up kerb space for the necessary 4,500 extra dedicated parking bays and charging points.

As in Paris, the prime objective is to reduce air pollution in the city. One of the most polluted cities in Europe, London risks an EU fine of up to £250m for its poor air quality and mayor Boris Johnson hopes a large pool of shared, all-electric cars will help shrink conventional vehicle numbers and cut emissions.


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