Paris Tests Short-Term Rentals of Electric Cars 

By DAVID JOLLY for the New York Times: If Parisians can share bicycles, why not cars, too?

Bertrand Delanoë, the Socialist mayor of Paris, and the billionaire investor Vincent Bolloré think they will. To that end they have begun an ambitious new electric-vehicle partnership called Autolib, extending the city’s effort to reimagine urban mobility and improve air quality with alternatives to exhaust-spewing cars.

On Sunday, Autolib rolled out 66 ultracompact Bluecars at charging stations for a two-month trial period to help familiarize the public with the system and work out the bugs before it fully goes live. Officials hope to have 3,000 of the zero-emission, four-seater Bluecars on the streets and 1,000 charging stations in Paris and surrounding cities by the end of 2012.

The bet is that urbanites needing occasional access to a car will opt out of ownership in exchange for the convenience of an easy, occasional rental, without the hassles of paying for gasoline, insurance, taxes and maintenance.

If the uptake on Vélib’ is any indication, Autolib should be a hit.

Getting its start in 2007, Vélib’ has peppered Paris and surrounding cities with stations that allow commuters who pay a small annual subscription to take a bicycle for up to 45 minutes free of charge. Vélib has been hugely popular — despite thefts and vandalism that have added to its costs — and the system’s 20,000 bikes are ridden on millions of trips each year. That has given officials the confidence to move ahead with Autolib.

Mr. Bolloré, whose businesses include shipping, energy and a controlling stake in the Havas advertising company, is expecting to invest €200 million, or $265 million, in Autolib. He will also pay €750 annually for each parking space, while receiving all the revenue from the program. Vélib’, in contrast, is financed by JCDecaux, a major advertising company, in exchange for the revenue from a concession on outdoor advertising.

Mr. Bolloré says he does not expect to make money on the project until the seventh year. Read more

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