Autolib: clean, green, chic and cheap

My Concierge Told Me

Paris launched today short-term car hire program

Et voila, it’s done, here comes Autolib! Today, Paris has launched an electric car-sharing scheme. They are called Bluecars although they are actually grey. You shouldn’t take this as a symbol: the new vehicles are clean, green, chic and cheap.

Autolib is built on the success of the city’s bike-rental scheme called Velib. Velib made it very easy to move around in Paris, as we explained in “No rocket science anymore”. Now Paris officials want Autolib as successful as its precursor. “Owning your own car”, says Annick Lepetit, in charge of transport at city hall, “is just so passé!”

Freedom and peace of mind

At present, there are 250 electric cars at 250 docking stations. But in June 2012 the fleet is supposed to count 1740 cars at 5,000 docking stations in Paris and dozens of suburban towns. It could be a true revolution in transport and bring users freedom and peace of mind. Other cities are already interested in the new Paris short-term rental program.

How does it work? Very easily actually. A prospective user will need a valid ID, driver’s license, of course, and credit card before signing up online or by a videoconference with real human being (not kidding), a customer service representative at one of the 40 shelters, which look a bit like Star Wars space toilets and will unfortunately never win a prize for urban architecture.

Cheaper than a cab

How much does it cost? Not that much. Standard subscriptions cost 10€ a day, 15€ a week and 144€ a year (132€ for families). Now add 5 € for the first half an hour of use, 4€ for the next and each supplementary half will cost you 6€. To avoid problems, you reserve your parking space when leaving the docking station.

Not for tourist?

Of course, it’s easier to get around by metro when you don’t really know the multiple one-way roads of Paris. But imagine you driving around Paris going where the wind blows you. Could be fun. When you’re planning to visit Versailles, autolib could be an alternative, too.

Only time will show how practicable the scheme is. If the cars are treated with the same lack of care as the famous velib-bicycles, the fleet probably will soon look like a scrap yard.

Photo: AFP, Thomas Samson