Paris Autolib electric car hire scheme accelerates

Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:40pm EST
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By Helen Massy-Beresford

PARIS (Reuters) - Parisians who flocked to use the popular Velib bike hire scheme will also be able to zip down the Champs-Elysees in environmentally friendly electric cars when a self-service car hire scheme gets underway next autumn. French conglomerate Bollore, whose interests range from media to logistics, led by charismatic industrialist and businessman Vincent Bollore, has won a contract to provide its small four-seater electric cars for the scheme.

The bubble-shaped Bluecars, designed by Italian partner Pininfarina, are powered by lithium polymer metal batteries produced by Bollore, and have a range of 250 km (155 miles) in the city between charges, which will take about four hours.

As governments seek cleaner air for cities and carmakers battle to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of their fleets, electric vehicles are taking on a more important role.

Major carmakers like Renault, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroen and General Motors are introducing electric models.

The Velib self-service bike hire scheme was launched in 2007 and quickly grew, despite problems including theft and vandalism, to become a fixture of Parisian streets, with many commuters choosing one of the heavy grey bikes over a bus or metro ride.

The name Velib combines French for bike -- "velo" -- with "liberte" -- freedom.

Paris' socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who pushed for the introduction of Velib, has now turned his attention to cars.

Autolib will see 3,000 electric vehicles take to the streets, with drivers able to pick up a car from one of the 1,000 stations in Paris and its suburbs.   Continued...

<p>A commuter pedals off from a near-empty Velib self-service bicycle rack in Paris during a nationwide transport strike October 18, 2007. REUTERS/John Schults</p>