Bubble cars to provide jolt to Paris motoring
By Elena Berton
PARIS (Reuters) - Bubble-shaped vehicles will appear on Paris streets next week which billionaire entrepreneur Vincent Bollore hopes will help clear the traffic-clogged arteries of the French capital as well as providing a charge to his nascent battery business.
The electrically powered Autolib cars will be available for hire in a two-month trial starting October 2 at 4 to 8 euros per half hour to motorists prepared to pay a membership fee starting at 10 euros for a day of driving.
The 235 million euro ($321 million) project is the brainchild of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who hopes to duplicate the success of Velib, the bicycle-sharing scheme he launched in 2007 and which has been copied by several cities in France and abroad.
It's also a potential showcase for Bollore's eponymous industrial conglomerate, which is making the BlueCar vehicles involved in the scheme and which are based on a lithium-metal-polymer battery, a different technology from the lithium-ion batteries other car makers are using.
Bollore told journalists on Friday he expected the project to make a profit in a number of years. "We estimate that it will be profitable from the seventh year, and an industrial group like ours is used to (its investments) turning a profit from the sixth or seventh year," he said.
The scheme echoes increasingly popular car clubs such as City Car which allow members to hire a local car for as little as an hour at a time.
"We want to persuade people to shift from the concept of owning a car to that of using a car," Autolib General Manager Morald Chibout told Reuters.
The city of Paris has spent 35 million euros ($47.8 million) in building the car rental stations, while neighboring communes have contributed 50,000 for each station. Continued...