Billionaire French tycoon, Vincent Bolloré, has promised to introduce London’s first ever point-to-point electric car sharing scheme. Once set up, drivers can use smartcards or phones to book Bluecar electric cars for short journeys between electric parking points.
Around 100 Bluecars will be available from the scheme’s planned March 2015 launch and this could extend to 3,000 with more public support and available parking spaces.
Bolloré, whose Bolloré group won the contract from Transport for London, said: "Until now, the electric car is a toy of the happy few: it's very expensive and does not have the autonomie [range] of a normal car. We have designed a car that is cheap: a beautiful, real car, with four seats, but cheap."
London’s current 1,400 charging points have largely remained unused because of their small scale, but Bolloré hopes to extend this number to a more reliable 6,000 by 2018. He hopes to attract 60,000 members with a £10 monthly subscription and £5 per half-hour hire charge to break even.
Mayor Boris Johnson is confident that the idea can help reduce air pollution and existing electric car clubs hope it can boost mainstream electric-car use generally. Part of its appeal lies in the fact that, like the Boris bikes, drivers can return the Bluecars to any charging station in the city.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s head of surface transport, said: "London is in very serious danger of getting a €300m (£250m) fine from the EU for its breaches of air quality. We think electric vehicles are very much the right answer for London, and in particular when shared, reducing the total number of vehicles on our streets and drastically reducing emissions."
A prototype Autolib’ model has been available in Paris since 2011 and the French capital currently has 2,000 Bluecars, 862 unmanned hire stations, 43,000 subscribers and 10,000 average daily rentals.
Bolloré said: “We believe it could be equally as successful in London, offering people a convenient and low-cost form of environmentally friendly transport.”
However, there’s no solid evidence that more polluting private and company car numbers would drop, while taxi and car hire companies have complained about the unfair competition created by the Bluecar scheme.