Paris isn’t the first city in the world to implement a car sharing service that allows drivers to pick up and drop off cars at stations throughout the urban center, paying for use as they go. And it’s unlikely that they’ll be the last. But the Autolib’ service certainly seems to be vying for the title of the one that’s doing it best. Not only have they set up kiosks and charging stations all over the city and provided hundreds of vehicles to build a widespread network for usage, but they’ve teamed up with electric carmaker Bolloré in order to offer drivers automobiles that will help them to further reduce their carbon footprint. With nearly 2,000 electric Bluecars available for use in Paris, thousands of drivers are leaving their personal vehicles behind and moving towards a greener future. Here’s how it all happened.
About a year ago, Autolib’ launched a ride sharing service meant to follow in the footsteps of the 2007 implementation of a Parisian bike sharing program called Velib’. The massive success of this pioneering public service showed that urban dwellers were looking for an alternative to owning and operating a vehicle in the city. But let’s be honest: not everyone can get around on a bicycle and there are certain errands that are made much easier with a car (grocery shopping or traveling more than a few miles, for example). Autolib’ took all of these considerations to heart and developed a service that would help people who wanted to give up a personal vehicle and do a good turn for the environment, but needed a car on occasion to run errands or get from here to there.
The result has been a program that currently boasts about 1,800 cars, nearly 700 kiosks, and tons of charging stations spread throughout the city of Paris with the goal of providing transportation to those looking to save some money and go green. When the program first launched last year, the stated goal was to eventually reach a 3,000-car capacity that would take the place of 22,500 individually-owned automobiles on Paris streets. And despite the fact that they have a ways to go before hitting the mark with the number of cars they employ, they have already far exceeded their goal in terms of drivers. In fact, the service reports that they not only have 13,000 users signed up for annual memberships (which reduce the cost of usage), but they have 37,000 registered users, a number that continues to grow by about 1,200 new members each month. And a reported 70% of those users don’t have cars of their own (although it is unknown how many have given up their vehicles in favor of the program).
Most drivers would be happy to give up the cost of fuel, insurance, and maintenance on a vehicle (no more oil changes or brake bleeder services!). And Autolib’ has offered Paris residents a workable alternative. While public transit may be a viable option for most transportation needs, and bicycles are a great way to go for certain errands and times of year, nearly everyone has occasion to need a car. Autolib’ is happy to meet the demand with eco-friendly vehicles that provide a pay-as-you-go option and plenty of locations for pickup and drop-off. They might not be the best ride sharing system in the world, but they’ve got to be close.