Green Travel in The City of Light: Paris Has Plans for Electric Car-Sharing

Paris has proven their commitment to green travel by pushing eco transportation options. The famous bike sharing program, Vélib’ (short for vélo liberté, meaning "bicycle freedom"), is an enormous success. There are now 20,000 bicycles around the city, with 1,639 stations, making Paris a leader in environmentally friendly transportation. Vélib’ is the largest bicycle sharing system of it's kind, and it has been copied around the world.

Pleased with the success of the program, Paris now has plans for another form of green travel: Autolib', an electric car-sharing system. The program will operate between 2,000-4,000 electric cars in approximately 1,000 parkings lots around Paris. Though rates haven't been set yet, it will likely cost around €5 per half hour to rent one of the cars, and possibly an additional €15 for more time. Of course, it shouldn't take more than a half hour to get from one side of Paris to the other (excepting heavy traffic). Furthermore, like the Vélib’, it's easy to stop and swap out for a new bicycle (or car) halfway through a journey, and avoid supplemental costs.

Several automakers, including Daimler, Renault and Peugeot Citroë have expressed interest in supplying the electric cars, but it's proven difficult to actually get the car out there. Autolib' was meant to launch in 2009, but now the city is saying the end of 2011. Paris is contemplating commissioning a new car specifically for Autolib', or using one that's already made, but it's not clear who will make it or when exactly the city will implement this green travel program.

Still, Paris will likely follow through, as they have a good track record. Thanks to public transportation, restrictions on automobiles and the Vélib’, traffic in  Paris has dropped almost 25%. When considering options, many people (especially younger ones) in the city choose to bike, as green travel happens to also be the least expensive and most convenient option. Advocates of Autolib believe that the program would mean that many people wouldn't need their cars at all, and so would get rid of them altogether.

On the other hand, some French Environmentalists think that cars in general are a bad idea, even if they are electric and meant for sharing. Denis Baupin, a Green Party leader, claimed that the public would be less likely to use public transportation or Velib if the car is available. Another possible problem is that Parisians who have cars use them for long journeys to the countryside or beach, which the electric cars obviously wouldn't be up to at this point.

And then, of course, there's vandalism. About 8,000 Vélib’ bikes (of the original 20,000), were stolen or tossed into the Seine. Will those €14,600 lithium-ion battery packs tempt thefts? Supposedly, the cars will be much more difficult to mess with. However, in Amsterdam, a lot of Smart Cars get chucked in the canals, and these Parisian electric cars will likely be small, too. Still, whether or not Autolib is a success, Paris deserves credit for groundbreaking experimentation with green travel.

Photo Credit: Cédric Bonhomme