The Paris Blues — Drive the New Autolib’ (That’s Not Really Blue)
The little round glass Autolib’ station popped up one day in front of Chez Omar and the Franprix market on rue de Bretagne…just like that. Before long, the glass was smashed into slivers (why or how that happened I couldn’t tell you), but it was repaired almost instantly. Then, the cars themselves appeared parked along the street and last night, technicians were charging them up.
If you haven’t already heard about this, Autolib’ is a worldwide first of a wholly self-service electric vehicle that is designed to suit city life, rather than the city adapting itself to vehicles. While most other cities are building more roads and parking lots to make way for more vehicles, Paris has been reducing the accommodation for private transport in lieu of better public transport and a better environment for pedestrians.
The cars are 100% electric — no pollutants, and virtually silent. Autolib’ is an amazingly eco-friendly public transportation system that “completes the missing link” in what Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë calls “the chain of metropolitan transport.” He further notes, “A modern city has an obligation to increase everybody’s options for movement, to help them travel as they want to, depending on need or circumstance. By providing this additional level of freedom, Autolib’ is paving the way to a new pattern of urban living.”
The cars seat four and are equipped with a radio and GPS! Developed by the Bolloré Group, the Autolib’ Bluecar (that are not really blue) is only 3.65 meters long, is equipped with Michelin energy-saving tires and claims to be powerful, light, speedy, easy, spacious and bright. It has airbags, electric power-steering and a warning sound when it comes near to pedestrians (otherwise, it’s so silent, you might not hear it!). In addition, there’s a system to install a child seat, a yellow jacket and an emergency triangle…just in case something goes awry.
To try it out, all you need is a driving license (international or French) and subscription to the service. Any local Autolib’ service station will allow you to rent a vehicle 24/7 from over 250 stations located in Ile-de-France with 1,000 stations planned for installation by June 2012.
To subscribe, take your driving license, proof of identity and a credit card to an Autolib’ station — they say that a subscription will take no longer than five minutes. You can also subscribe online at: Autolib’ Subscription.
What’s cool is, like the Vélib’, you can leave a car in a different station from the one you set out and it will be recharged directly at the station terminals (one four-hour charge last 250 kilometers). It’s also cheap. There are three formulas. You pay for the subscription and then the rental depends on the time of use:
– Annual subscription (€12/month), with €5 rental (1st half-hour), €4 (second half-hour) and €6 (3rd and subsequent);
– Weekly subscription (€15 per week), €7 rental (1st half-hour), €6 (second half-hour) and €8 (3rd and subsequent);
– Daily subscription (€10 per day), €7 rental (1st half-hour), €6 (second half-hour) and €8 (3rd and subsequent).
If getting started feels a bit uncomfortable, head to the reception and information center at 5, rue Edouard VII in the 9th arrondissement where you can learn all you need to know and subscribe. If you can’t or don’t want to use a credit card, you can pay by bank transfer and once registered, you’ll receive an RFID badge with a sensor that unlocks the Bluecar at any station. Then, find the Bluecar of your choice, unplug the cable, ensure that it recoils properly before closing the lid on the unit, climb in and engage the key to start it up…then drive away.
When you return the Bluecar to a station, reconnect it and that ends your rental. If you have any problems with the process, there’s a button you can press to contact the “Vaucresson Operations Center” and the advisor will call the Autolib’ staff who are on call and at your service 24/7. Authorized recharge is 2 hours 15 minutes and anything after that is charged €6, plus you’re limited to two recharges per day per subscriber…as everyone needs a chance to take advantage of the new Autolib’ service…or at least try it out!
Will it really work? How does this compare with hopping on a bus or taking a taxi? It’s more expensive than a bus, but perhaps less expensive than a taxi. It seats four, while a taxi will (normally) only take three. These are advantages…plus you can go where you want when you want. But it seems to me one big reason to take the Autolib’ is to haul stuff that’s bulky or heavy, such as luggage or items you’re moving from one place to another — but if that’s the case, the trunk may be too small to be worth it.
Of course, there was doubt about the Vélib’ success…but it has outperformed it’s own expectations, plus given a boost to the bike industry in general while reducing the use of cars…so there are high hopes!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. See you tomorrow when Julie Vetter, Online Marketing and e-Reputation Services expert, talks about “Inbound Marketing and the Laws of Attraction” at Parler Paris Après Midi (visit Parler Paris Après Midi for details) and Saturday, January 14th at the Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group for our annual KING CAKE PARTY (La Galette des Rois, visit Parler Parlor King Cake Party for details).
P.P.S. Those of you who have something valuable to share with our readers and would like to speak at un upcoming Parler Paris Après Midi, please contact me at [email protected]