PARIS (AP) - Baby, you can drive my car. And you. And you. After its successful bike-sharing program, Paris is moving into higher gear, preparing to lend out 3,000 electric cars across the City of Light to fight air pollution.
City officials on Thursday chose a bid by French billionaire entrepreneur Vincent Bollore to run Autolib', a new automobile-sharing program modeled on Paris' successful, three-year-old bicycle-sharing program, Velib'.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the service - which is to begin in the city and nearby suburbs by the end of 2011 - will make Paris the first major world city with a car-sharing program of its size.
Delanoe called the plan "a revolution in efficiency that will improve our quality of life."
Groupe Bollore, an industrial conglomerate, beat out two rival bidders after a yearlong selection process: a consortium of rental car giant Avis, Paris public transport authority RATP, national rail operator SNCF and Vinci Park, an operator of parking garages; and Veolia Transport Urbain - an international operator of public transport systems.
The four-seat "Bluecars" - so called for their color - developed by Bollore are to be positioned at 1,200 stations in metropolitan Paris and will be available around the clock. Users must have a valid driver's license and pay a subscription fee to borrow one of the vehicles.
Italian car designer Pininfarina worked with Bollore to develop the cars.
Tourists will be able to use the service as long as they have a driver's license recognized in France, meaning U.S. and European visitors should have no problem signing up. The service will employ around 800 people, and will be financed by a euro60 million ($80.2 million) investment by Bollore. City and regional authorities will pay to build the docking stations at a cost of euro50,000 ($66,800) each.
An annual subscription will cost euro12 ($16) per month, but daily and weekly options will also be available.A euro250 ($335) security deposit will also be required. The cars can be reserved in advance and returned to any station, similar to how Paris' bike sharing program works.
A test phase of the program is scheduled for August and September, before the official startup in October.
Velib' makes more than 20,000 bikes and nearly 1,500 stations available around the city and nearby suburbs. Infrequent users can pay by credit card, while subscribers pay a yearly fee of euro25 ($33) to gain access to the bikes.
--- Cecile Brisson in Paris contributed to this article. (
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)