The Bluecar from Bolloré chosen for Autolib’, a 3,000-EV strong car-sharing program in Paris

Bolloré Bluecar

Bertrand Delanoé, mayor of ParisParis mayor Bertrand Delanoé (left) revealed on Thursday the name of the operator of a huge car-sharing program in the French capital. 26 surrounding cities have already joined the scheme to give the project a regional dimension, and 3,000 cars are expected, all electric ones. Modeled on the successful bike-sharing program Velib’ which Delanoé launched in 2007, Autolib’ will allow its users to piçk a car at any Autolib’ station (in or around Paris) and leave it at any other station at a small cost.

The winner of the selection process is Vincent Bolloré, the billionaire entrepreneur whose conglomerate manufactures the Batscap battery using Lithium-Metal-Polymer technology. This battery, which isn’t in normal production yet, will be used by the Bluecar (top picture, and below).

Bolloré Bluecar

Bertrand Delanoé, mayor of Paris with Annick LepetitI’ve seen the first Bluecar in early 2005. It’s a brand new electric car, conceived from the ground up for an electric propulsion. It received a new design in 2008, thanks to Pininfarina, the famous Italian designer. It changed again, this time for the worse, last September when the production model was unveiled. The concept was fantastic, and it got praised everywhere, but the car that will actually be available will be much more mundane. To compensate, I hope it will be cheap when it will be available, for this we don’t have a date yet. But we do have one for Autolib’. Road works will start next April, to install charging stations on the street. First cars will then arrive in October, with the whole 3,000 cars available in March 2012. That will be quite a challenge.

Autolib' presentation in Paris

A challenge because Bolloré doesn’t have a car factory. He can produce the battery all by himself, but he will have to hire a contract manufacturer to build the cars for him. Two are already working on the car, Cecomp and Pininfarina, both based in Turin (Italy), but I’m not sure the car is ready for production as of today.

Bertrand Delanoé, mayor of ParisThe model shown at the Paris motor show last September still needed some work, and it still doesn’t have road approval. There’s an awful lot to do, and the Italians will have to work overtime, as Bolloré would get a stiff financial penalty if he fails to deliver the cars on time…

So we better look at the project from Parisian point of view, rather as the operator, and it looks good with very affordable pricing. Autolib’s Membership is 12-euros per month ($16), with cars available at 5-euros for 30-minutes ($6.5), the following 30-minutes requiring 4-euros ($5), and then 6-euros per each half-hour after that, because it’s not wanted that people keep one car for too long. It’s so affordable that everybody (me, first) wonders how Bolloré will manage to make money at these prices, considering the huge initial investment…