Paris Unfurls EV Car-Sharing Program

Autolib scheme is inspired by and based on city's popular bike-sharing system

2 min read
Paris Unfurls EV Car-Sharing Program

Paris, the so-called City of Light, though often rainy and dreary, has been doing some really exciting things in advanced transportation. For decades, of course, it has had one of the premier subway systems, the model for similar systems the world over, producing huge revenues for French manufacturers. Four years ago the mayor of Paris introduced a citywide bicycle sharing system, Vélib, which has become hugely popular and in turn also is the model for systems elsewhere (most recently New York City). Two years ago France announced it would build a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure adequate to support 2 million plug-in hybrids and EVs by 2020.

Now, this week, Paris unveiled an electric car sharing system modeled on Vélib, the bike program. It will enter full service on December 5, with at least 250 vehicles for hire. As described in the Financial Times, "Following the Velib system, users can pick up the car at one point and drop it off at another destination, as long as they can find a dedicated parking space—something that an in-car computer system is designed to help identify." 

The electric car itself, a model of simplicity, was developed by entrepreneur Vincent Bolloré.  Dubbed the Bluecar (and not to be confused with clean-diesel technologies developed by Daimler and VW), it beat out Daimler's electric Smart and a candidate developed by Peugeot. The Bluecar was designed and will be produced by Pininfarina, in Turin, Italy, which makes the Ferrari and Maserati.

The car runs on a solid-state lithium metal polymer battery, also developed under the Bolloré group’s aegis. As described on the Bluecar’s Web site, it "can store five times more energy than a traditional battery weight for weight, and can be recharged in a matter of hours. It does not require any maintenance and has a lifespan of around 200 000 km, providing outstanding safety throughout."

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A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

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EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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