The idea for Vélib' was originally proposed by the city of Paris, but bankrolled by advertising firm JCDecaux when they invested $140 million. In return, JCDecaux obtained thousands of advertising spaces at the various Vélib' kiosks all over Paris.
The three-speed bicycles are produced by French bike company Mercier. They weigh about 50 pounds and are equipped with LED lighting and a secure locking system. The costs to use the bikes vary by plan, but require a subscription of about $40 per year. With that fee, the first half hour of every rental period is free, after that a charge of $2-5 is added for each additional 30 minutes.
If something bigger than a bike with basket is required, Paris also has an extensive car-sharing program called Autolib'. Launching in December 2011, Autolib' operates similarly to Vélib, but for cars. Bolloré's Blue Car is the vehicle of choice because it is cheap and all electric. The design comes from Pininfarina, an Italian design firm noted for their work with Ferrari.
At launch, 250 cars were placed around Paris in small convoys. All the cars connect to a terminal for charging and accounting. The terminal is used to rent and unlock the vehicle. Drivers can go up to 150 miles on a single charge and speeds can hit 80 mph--but don't ever expect to go that fast around Paris. These cars are more for commuting, when you need to carry a lot of things, or need to go somewhere that public transit doesn't go.
When drivers are finished, they bring the car back to an Autolib' station and plug in. The car can fully recharge in 8 hours. The 30 kWh lithium-polymer battery is designed with frequent use in mind and can stand to last a long time.
Subscription fees are as little as $200 per year to join the program. Rental rates are about $7 per hour for the first 30 minutes and goes down to $5 for the second 30 minutes. After that the rate goes to $8 for each additional 30 minutes. If one were to get into an accident, a mandatory $260 fee is added.
Anyone with a valid driver's license over the age of 18 can join the program, but availability can be tricky. More cars are on the way, but currently 250 cars is not enough to support demand. Plans are in place to get as many as 3,000 EVs out into Paris' streets.
At TRANSLOGIC, we couldn't be happier to see these types of systems work together with other modes of public transit to get people around efficiently--both environmentally and economically. We think systems like this could work very well in dense U.S. cities too. In fact, we already have some successes like ZipCar and Car2Go. We just need to expand on those good ideas.