Electric ‘Boris cars’ come to London, now that they work in Paris.

Guardian: “….By any measure – including, judging from a random sample quizzed on the pavement last month, customer satisfaction – Paris’s Autolib’ electric car sharing scheme is looking like a success.” “Membership is up from 5,650 a month two-and-a-half years ago to 155,000 today. Between them, those members have clocked up the fairly remarkable total of 30.4 million miles. The service’s 2,500 Bluecars – hitting 3,000 by the end of this year – are now averaging a total of well over 10,000 rentals every day.
….Launched as a complement to Velib’, the municipal cycle-sharing scheme set up in Paris in 2007 by former Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Autolib’ was first mooted in 2009, opened for service – with 250 cars – in December 2011, and has since expanded to Lyon (as Bluely) and Bordeaux (Bluecub) in France, and Indianapolis in the United States. As Source London, a commercial proposition of which Transport for London is “supportive”, it will be arriving in the British capital next year.
BlueSolutions, the French company behind the schemes, will start modestly in London: just 100 cars around the capital from March 2015, using the city’s existing network of 1,400 electric charging points. It aims to build up gradually to around 3,000 cars by 2018, providing people take to it and local councils co-operate by freeing up kerb space for the necessary 4,500 extra dedicated parking bays and charging points.
As in Paris, the prime objective is to reduce air pollution in the city. One of the most polluted cities in Europe, London risks an EU fine of up to £250m for its poor air quality and mayor Boris Johnson hopes a large pool of shared, all-electric cars will help shrink conventional vehicle numbers and cut emissions.
….For BlueSolutions, part of France’s family-owned Bolloré conglomerate, Autolib’ is also a priceless opportunity to showcase its proprietarylithium-metal-polymer battery, protected with more than 400 patents. The company claims the battery – which, unlike the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric cars, is solid and so considered less of a safety risk – has a longer overall lifespan and significantly greater range between charges than conventional batteries.
Having spent nearly 20 years and €1.8bn developing its product, Varin says, Bolloré was eager to test it in the most demanding of conditions. It jumped at the chance when the call for Autolib’ tenders went out in 2009, and was happy to stump up the €50m a year that the scheme costs to run. On both sides of the Channel, it estimates it needs 60,000 subscribers to break even – a target it should reach in Paris next year, ahead of schedule.
When Autolib’ launched, Varin says he told staff: “Warn your families, this whole thing could be a complete disaster.” But the Paris scheme appears to have cleared its early hurdles and now, he says, the chief logistical problems are keeping the cars clean (“This is Paris; people aren’t always public-spirited”), ensuring cars are distributed evenly across the network (a problem partly solved by offering free rentals to members willing to take cars where they’re needed), and pigeons. “We had not altogether counted,” says Varin, “on the workload Paris’s pigeons would represent for a fleet of 2,000-plus cars …”