• Jan 13, 2012
Autolib, the Parisian electric car sharing service, is not having the kind of start it had hoped for. Though the program officially kicked off in October, the rubber really hit the road in December and, since that time, 30 to 40 of the 250 Bolloré-built Bluecars in the fleet have had to be taken out of service. The problem stems from a combination of vandalism – something the city's bicycle-sharing program also experiences a lot of – and ordinary breakdowns of one sort or another.

The situation means that grabbing a car from one of the 300 stations is not a sure bet. The graphic to the right is a snapshot of availability taken recently, with the number of available electrics shown in the blue flag. As you can see, there are an awful lot of zeros.

The news is not all bad though. The service has had 6,000 people sign up, which is about double what organizers expected. Now, if they can get some more cars out there and keep them running, they might just experience some of the success car-sharing programs like Car2go and Zipcar are enjoying Stateside.

Hit the jump for a (French-language) news report of the problem as well as a bonus video (also in French) featuring an Autolib car getting a thorough review.





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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 1 Day Ago
      As someone who has used the Velib a lot and enjoyed it, I have to admit I was skeptical about the Autolib. Cars are different. They are expensive and cumbersome. The Velib has a hard enough time maintaining bikes that it's standard procedure that if you have a bike with a problem, you turn the seat around so the next person to come along doesn't actually take it. The Velib also has distribution issues (try getting a bike in, let's say, the Marais at five in the evening). The fact that they are using cars built for them instead of commercially available (or even better, electric scooters!) is a real red flag. I hope this doesn't turn out like some French projects occasionally do, a bureaucrat's idea that is inflexible, siloed, and doomed to be ignored. Minitel, anyone?
        TheLadyWithTheDog
        • 1 Day Ago
        Minitel is an anachronism now, but it was a big success in its day. The organizers of Autolib (and Velib, for that matter) would surely be pleased to have Minitel-like levels of adoption!
      DaveMart
      • 1 Day Ago
      Looking at France Soir, they are saying that the small numbers of these cars mean that it can be difficult to get spares quickly, so for instance vandalism taking out a window can put a car off the road for some time, and repair costs can be high, again mainly due to limited production. Presumably the decision to go for Bollore is political. I would have thought it far more economic to use the Renaul Zoe when it becomes available.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 1 Day Ago
      the main story here is that it's so popular that there is a shortage of cars? sounds like a luxury problem. make more.
        Actionable Mango
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        The way I read it, the shortage of cars is caused by breakdowns and vandalism. Adding more unreliable cars is not a good solution. Switching to a reliable car or solving the reliability problem with the current ones is a much better idea. I have no idea what to do about vandalism. Well, there's always snipers on rooftops, but that sort of thing is frowned upon.
          upstategreenie
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          I remember there were actually 'guards' in parking lot of mao mart in a US 'commonwealth' in guard towers in parking lot......they had assault rifles......what is worth that much security in mao mart??? seriously. US corporate owned govt. aids and abets bankers stealing TRILLIONS but guards have to patrol mao mart parking lots because poor people might steal a loaf of bread because they are starving???? I think our priorities are a tiny bit fu*!ed up. however senseless vandalism is stupid. if they are not reliable and break down, obviously that is one way to prevent vandalism!!!!!
      Ryan
      • 1 Day Ago
      Just like with the Velolib bike program, they need to allow tourists and short-term borrowers into the program. Although that it would be much easier with the bikes to insure them.
      • 1 Day Ago
      In the last video, they mention an increase to 1750 cars in June. If they deliver, that should help with availability...
      Nick
      • 1 Day Ago
      Why did they let 6000 ppl subscribe? Why didn't they limit it at, say 1000 until more cars become available?
      EV News
      • 1 Day Ago
      Quote "The service has had 6,000 people sign up, which is about DOUBLE what organizers expected." So how does that end up in a headline that reads "suffers setbacks" Sounds like they just underestimated demand... that's a GOOD problem to have !
        Actionable Mango
        • 1 Day Ago
        @EV News
        They describe the setbacks in the article. Frequent breakdowns and vandalism. 30 to 40 out of 250 cars out of service is a large percentage. Twice as many people signed up as you expected is usually good news, but not if you cannot support them. This could give them a bad reputation. They need to quickly get on the ball and make cars available or those 6000 people will be spreading bad word of mouth instead of good.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          Ah, but Parisiens are well-know for their patience! Nearly as much as New Yorkers, in fact! ;-)
      upstategreenie
      • 1 Day Ago
      article forgets to mention most Europeans also have options of biking high speed rails etc. and these cars need to lose in your face ads...looks like 20 clowns are going to come out of them.....
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