Since July 2007, a program called VÃ©lib’ has dotted Paris with 10,000 electric hire-bicycles, stationed in 750 bike ranks.
To drive them, you’ll need a one-year membership, which can be bought from 300 mÃ©tro stations and 400 pastry shops for â‚¬29 ($41), plus a $215 credit card deposit. A one-day card is â‚¬1 ($1.40), or you can buy a weekly card for some $7. After buying a card, the first half-hour is free, then it’s â‚¬1 for the next half-hour, â‚¬2 for the next 30-minutes and â‚¬4 for each half-hour after that.
The bikes have been a huge success – in the first 3 weeks, they were borrowed 1.2 million times – 6 times a day for each bike. In less than a year, this army of cheap, on-street hire-bicycles called VÃ©lib’ has transformed transport habits and bike awareness in Paris. By the end of this year, the plan is to have 20,600 bikes, and 1400 parking spots. There’s a great blog on VÃ©lib’ at velibobsession.blogspot.com which – sadly – reports that many of the electric bikes have recently been vandalized.
Anyway, a fleet of electric hire-cars called Autolib’ looks set to take the revolution one step further. Autolib’ is expected to go out to tender in the coming weeks, calling for 4,000 electric cars. The main contenders appear to be two models with French origins, BlueCar and Cleanova. The BlueCar project was begun by French battery manufacturer BollorÃ© and the first vehicles are due to go on sale in mid-2009, built and styled by Italian firm Pininfarina. The Cleanova is developed by France’s Dassault Group and uses the body of the small Renault Kangoo van. Other cars mentioned are based on the Renault Twingo and the CitroÃ«n Berlingo.
There will be 700 Autolib’ pick-up points across the Paris area, 200 of which will be underground. Drivers will be able to pick up an electric car and drive anywhere in the city or outskirts and drop it off at special drop off points. There will be a computerised system which allows you as soon as you collect the car to announce where you’ll drop it off, so there will be a parking space available.
Drivers are expected to pay a monthly a subscription fee of up to â‚¬250 ($391), enabling them to drive up to 60 miles a day. If that seems a steep price, keep in mind gas prices in France are $8.75 a gallon, i.e. more than twice the US average of $4.11 a gallon. The fee also appears competitive with Zip Car‘s rates for New York City. Anyway, for those fluent in French, have a look at the website under ‘les tarifs':
VÃ©lib’ charging station
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