Just recently in Paris an innovative car sharing service was launched by the name of AutoLib. The service is very similar to the VeloV project in France, where users can rent a bike for a brief period of time. The AutoLib basically does the same, allowing the user access to, in this case, an electric vehicle for a brief moment of time. Is this the direction where car ownership is going? More and more companies seem to think so. This article is a short summary of my trip to Paris. Initially I could not find the stations and people I asked had not heard of them yet. Luckily someone at a local coffee bar knew where to start looking and after having discovered my first, I saw them everywhere after that.
The AutoLib station on the streets.
How does it work?
As a member of the AutoLib program you have a special card, the size of your creditcard. With this card you can swipe at one of the rental station poles in the street to unlock a vehicle and take it for a (short) drive. Most rides done in the AutoLib cars remain in the city area. After your ride, you return it to one of the AutoLib stations, where it can get recharged also.
What does it cost?
So what does it cost to drive in an AutoLob car? The company site refers to three different programs, a subscription for a year, 7 days or 24 hours. You pay a fixed fee for the type of subscription and after that you pay for the time you use the car.
||€12 per month
|1st half hour
|2nd half hour
|3rd half hour and beyond
What is behind it?
The rationale behind this program is that most cars people own, are standing idle in a parking lot for over 90% of the time. The main aim is to increase this utilization of cars in urban areas, effectively lowering the amount of cars required in an urban area. That and considering that fewer cars in a city lead to less traffic and less parking problems, this is an idea that just might be gold.
In the case of AutoLib, it is backed financially by Vincent Bolloré, who just happens to have a patent in a specific battery technology that needed a proofing ground. With all the miles driven in the AutoLib cars, his battery technology will rake in many miles traveled, get charged and discharged a lot and is getting a lot of experience data from the field: a great way to get his battery technology the needed stamp of ‘proven and used technology’.
The condition I have found all AutoLib stations to be in during my visit: empty. Just guessing all the cars are being driven around then.
Are there comparable programs around?
There are actually quite a few companies who are already doing similar things, for example the program from Daimler supported Car2Go and Zipcar in the USA. If you look closer into the plans of BMW i-ventures, you’ll also notice their shift from car ownership to having access to certain transportation modes. That includes the BMW cars obviously, but also suggesting alternatives in public transport if that happens to be a quicker/cheaper/greener solution.
For those of you who are going to visit Paris, the menu of the AutoLib station is also available in English.