AP Photo/Christophe Ena
On December 5, Paris debuted Autolib', a new electric-car sharing program introduced to mitigate noise--apparently the Parisian populace's greatest annoyance--and pollution from carbon-emitting vehicles passing through the city center. With 250 all-electric cars now available and 2,000 ready by the summer, officials are billing the initiative as the largest, and certainly, most ambitious of its kind, dwarfing other similar projects such as Berlin's lending program, launched last spring and comprised of just 40 electric cars and bicycles.
A collaborative enterprise between the city and private companies, Autolib' is a logical development of Paris's immensely successful bike-rental service, Velib. As the Telegraph reports, the process of renting a 'Bluecar,' produced by Italian car maker Pininfarina and French corporation Groupe Bollore, is exactly the same as that established by Velib, whereby users choose from various subscriptions ranging from the hourly to the annual which allow them to take out a bicycle from any of the 1,450 rental stations interspersed throughout the city. The Autolib' offers similar subscription plans, only with higher rates--10 euros per day, 15 euros a week, and 144 euros a year, with hourly fees from 4-9 euros. Users will, of course, need a valid ID and driver's license, as well as a credit card to cover any damages incurred by the vehicle.
Inherent to the Velib system was the infrastructural imperative necessary to keep the program running. The Autolib' appropriates a comparable network of rental kiosks, 250 at present with the number rising to 1,000 by next June, each of which is fitted with multiple charging stations and parking spaces. The electric cars are said to run 150 miles on a single charge, thanks to the vehicle's innovative Lithium Metal Polymer battery. Owners of electric cars can use the Autolib' charging facilities for a small annual fee of 180 euros.
Critics of the program hold that the system, which will surely spread to other French cities if it proves successful, will further entrench the capital and country in their reliance on nuclear power, while pointing to the extent maintenance fees that could substantially plunder city resources and taxpayer's pockets before dooming the entire venture. They also charge that by facilitating means of access to motor vehicles, there will be a dramatic increase in driving, carbon-neutrally or otherwise.