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Paris’ Autolib’ has a smooth start

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par Elsa Sidawy | 12.13.11

une_autolib2_111207
Before international journalists and local officials, the service Autolib’ was launched Monday, December 5th near Châtelet, four years after the inauguration of the now famous Vélib. Indeed, the latter model inspired the city and the group Bolloré to launch this system of self-service electric cars.

Make the city cleaner and democratize electric vehicles
It’s been four years since we inaugurated Vélib. It was an innovation, a risk that triggered a lot of skepticism. But, it was above all a coherent project,” said the Mayor of Paris at the launch of Autolib’. Like its predecessor, the new service is aimed at users who want to be eco-friendly.  “I’m just returning from China where some mornings in the cities they light fireworks to try to dissipate the pollution. Autolib’, which emits zero noise or polluting emissions is today a chance for us to change the city,” declared Vincent Bolloré. And the manufacturer is counting on its 3000 Blue electric cars to help urbanites breath easier.

What about their reliance on nuclear energy? And batteries that contain lithium, a rare mineral from Bolivia? The manufacturer points out that it is making major progress in regards the capacity of its batteries . . . products of France.  But to be perfect, these electric city-cruisers will have to become increasingly cleaner.  “We want renewable energies to have the greatest role in fueling these cars,” added the Mayor of Paris. But users will not be seeing solar panels and wind turbines in their rearview mirrors quite yet.

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Vincent Bolloré, Jean-Paul Huchon and Bertrand Delanoë

A car that complements public transport networks
More than increasing the numbers of cars on the roads, Autolib’ detractors primarily doubt that public transport users will take to carsharing. But the 1,100 stations have been placed in locations across 46 districts in the Autolib’ network that are thought to most directly connect to existing public transport networks. The long-term ambition: the public private partnership aims for a reduction in the total number of private vehicles to 22,500 and an annual reduction of 260,000 tons of CO2 emissions. “ The real progress is to give citizens the liberty of choice: I want this new system to allow the 40% of Parisians with automobiles to spend no more than 5,000 euros each year,” added Bertrand Delanoë. Rather than rivaling existing transport modes, the municipality wants Autolib’ to become another facet in the Île-de-France’s greater multimodal network

An awareness campaign
The first users seem to be fans of the compact city car which is “easy to drive despite apprehension at having never driven an automatic,” exclaimed one Parisian approached at a station on the rue des Pyréneées, in the 20th arrondissement. “Next month, I’m giving up my car,” he added.

First hiccup: after one of the debut rides, Autolib’ reported its first accident. The fault can perhaps be attributed to the nearly silent engine of the vehicle, which surprised a pedestrian. After its vast communication campaign, the city must make other street dwellers aware of the dangers that can accompany these rather stealth vehicles. Bertrand Delanoë is working on this: “at every stage we are going to learn ways to improve the service, we will continue to work on our baby so that it’s perfect in six months.” The first midterm report will be out this summer when tourists have their turn to test this groundbreaking system.

Photos credits:  City of Paris - Henri Garat / Elsa Sidawy - Innov’ in the City

Translated by Genny Cortinovis

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