“Autolib’ – Paris bets big on new carshare technology “

Comment on http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/autolib-%E2%80%93-paris-bets-big-on-new-carshare-technology/

Author : Dave Brook (IP: 166.137.140.20 , mobile-166-137-140-020.mycingular.net) E-mail : dave@carsharing.us

Paris is indeed betting big on Autolib. Much bigger than Vélib for 3 reasons:
– Politically – because the system is not going to be indirectly subsidized by advertising;
– Operationally – because they are bringing on line a lot of new technology quite rapidly and
– Policy – because it’s not clear (to me at least) that cars, even electric cars, will have some transformative effect than bicycles have. But I’d love to be proven wrong on all accounts.

Some specific reactions to Eric’s posting: When it was first proposed Autolib was indeed a significant evolution from the “round trip” service model of current carsharing companies. As the post correctly points out, since then Daimler has now had several years experience with car2go’s one way, on-demand service on two continents, which I imagine the future operators of Autolib must be observing closely. Fortunately, car2go is not a university research project but a well-funded, large-scale, commercial implementation of the concept that will provide many useful lessons.

Regarding some of the points in the article by Sylvain Marty:

– Given the distribution of the stations Autolib will indeed serve the largest pool of potential customers of any carshare service in the world. It will be very interesting to compare usage patterns of the central arrondissements to the outer ones.

– Operationally, since the service has to depend on stations (for recharging), it is going to be much more difficult to manage than car2go (which allows flexible parking anywhere within the large zone). Re-balancing the fleet and providing users with information about available parking is going to be a challenge.

– Goals – since France has relatively low-percentage of fossil fuel-generated electricity (3.9% coal + 7% other fossil fuels), these electric vehicles will indeed be environmentally-friendly. Since French auto manufacturers have as much more experience building EVs as anyone on the planet I have every confidence they will be excellent vehicles. Hopefully, Bolloré bet on battery technology will be a good one.

The second goal of increasing mobility for less well-off Parisians is more problematic in my mind. Given that the demographics of current carsharing members are well-educated and median income, I think it’s going to take some very creative marketing to interest ” Parisians who do not have access to a private vehicle, usually for economic reasons” mentioned by Mr. Marty has mention.

– The Missing Link – Will Autolib have the same “game changing” effect on mobility that Vélib has had? I hope so. In workshop presentations about carsharing I always point out the significance of “thinking big” as exemplified by the Vélib system. The rest of the world desperately needs an example of “mobility on demand” that will get us past the car-ownership as the dominant or preferred transportation option. The timing for Autolib is excellent – even better than when the service was first conceived. Auto manufacturers are looking for new options in the sector (e.g. Peugeot Mu); integration by mobility providers is greater than ever.

In the past I’ve expressed concern that Autolib (and car2go) will take some trips away from existing public transportation. But as I’ve thought about it more it seems likely that this shift will be relatively small and I’m hopeful that the overall effect of making low or no-car ownership possible for a greater number of households will be much more powerful in the long run.

Bon chance Autolib.

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