Technology & Science

Paris to launch electric car-sharing program

Coming on the heels of its successful bike-sharing program, Paris is moving into higher gear and preparing to lend out 3,000 electric cars across the city.

After its successful bike-sharing program, the city of Paris in moving into higher gear — now preparing to lend out 3,000 electric cars across the City of Light.

City officials are announcing Thursday which of three companies or partnerships has been chosen to run Autolib', an automobile-sharing program modelled on Paris's successful, three-year-old bicycle-sharing program, Velib'.

City Hall spokesman Damien Steffan said the service, set to begin in Paris and nearby suburbs by the end of 2011, will make Paris the first major world city with a car-sharing program of its size.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe will name on Thursday the winner of a yearlong selection process to choose the operator in a news conference at which details of the program are also expected to emerge.

Three groups are in the running: a consortium of rental car giant Avis, Paris public transport authority RATP, national rail operator SNCF and Vinci Park, an operator of parking garages; Bollore, a French conglomerate owned by billionaire entrepreneur Vincent Bollore; and Veolia Transport Urbain, an international operator of public transport systems.

The cars are to be positioned at 1,000 stations in metropolitan Paris and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users will have to have a driver's licence and pay a subscription fee to borrow one of the cars.

Velib' makes available more than 20,000 bikes at nearly 1,500 stations around the city and nearby suburbs. Infrequent users can pay by credit card, while subscribers pay a yearly fee of $33 to have access to the bikes.