We Tried Out The French Electric Car-Sharing Service That's On Its Way To The US

autolib paris car sharing electric

While New Yorkers are getting used to their new bike share program, Parisians have long since moved on to the next level: electric car sharing.

Inaugurated in December 2011, Autolib’ offers its more than 65,000 members a fleet of nearly 2,000 electric Bolloré cars, for an affordable price.

And now the system is coming to the United States: The Bolloré Group announced in June it will bring 500 electric cars (likely the Ford Focus Electric or Nissan Leaf) to Indianapolis, starting next spring.

Autolib’ works like most bike share programs. Users pay for a membership, with an additional cost depending on how much they drive. Autolib’ memberships can last a day (10€), a week (15€), a month (30€), or a year (144€).

Once you’ve signed up, you can drive as often as you like. Just find an available car at a nearby station, drop it off wherever you find an open spot, and plug it in to charge.

You pay extra for each half hour you use a car (7€ for day members, 6€ for week and month-long members, and €5 for annual users).

We tried out the system with a company rep when we were in town for the Paris Air Show last month. While the cars themselves are far from amazing and have the limited range that’s common in electric rides, they do the trick for getting around the city.

We’re officially jealous of Indianapolitans.

Some stations have kiosks where you can sign up for the service (or hide from the rain).

Make sure you have a credit card, ID, and a driver's licence (International or European only) with you, then choose your language (French or English).

You sign up via video conference. The quality isn't great, but it does the job. You can start the sign-up process online, but need to complete it at a kiosk.

If you're already a member, check the station map online before you go to grab a car — notice there are lots of empty stations. The upside is that you can reserve an available car for enough time to allow you to get there before someone else takes it.

The kiosk will select a car for you.

If the battery is less than 55% full, you can't take it.

To take a car, press your badge against the charger and unplug the cord. Your badge also unlocks the car door.

The 100% electric Bolloré cars have room for four and offer no luxury features. You don' even get air conditioning (it would drain too much precious battery power).

Just look at the gear shifter.

One problem is that there's no real way to track if someone damages the car. The result is that things aren't so pristine.

There is a navigation system, with a network of all the stations built in. You can enter an address, or find a station with an available spot.

You pay between 5€ and 7€ for every half hour you have the car. Once you're back at the station, find an available spot and plug the charger in.

To prevent vandalism, only those with a working badge can open the charger or unplug a car.

Overall, it's a convenient, affordable system that works well. And that's enough to make us jealous of Indianapolis.

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