Sunday, June 22, 2008

Paris proposes a dubious idea

The Guardian (London) and other newspapers report that Paris is moving forward with its plans for an electric carsharing program - hoping to follow onto the success of the Velib public bicycle system.

They're hoping for 4,000 vehicles at 700 locations around Paris - twice as many vehicles as when the concept was first mentioned 6 months ago. The system would allow one-way trips between stations. Guardian article suggests that rates would be €200-€250 (about $300-$400) per month to drive about 60 miles. No specific brand of electric vehicle is suggested (but US readers should remember that France has had several pure electric highway cars made by major French car manufacturers for many years).

You know it's a different political system in France when a cautionary note about the whole idea can be sounded by a Deputy Mayor, "I'm very sceptical," said Denis Baupin quoted in the Guardian article, a Green party deputy mayor. "If this scheme encourages people to pick up these cars every day, using them to go into work and back instead of using bikes or the metro, crowding roads and changing habits, that's a problem. I think we would be better off promoting car-sharing schemes like the ones in Britain that work for occasional use."

My 2¢: Unless the rates are very carefully designed this service will be a huge expense (without the advertising revenues that the comparatively expensive Velib bicycle system depends on) and could easily have exactly the effect Mssr. Baupin menions: robbing passengers from the Metro and Velib bicycle program.

For what it's worth, the article is incorrect in stating that it's the first electric car project in Paris. Just 10 years ago Paris was the site of the innovative Praxitele program that provided a small-scale demonstration (50 vehicles at 5 stations) of exactly the service being proposed now - self service electric cars allowing one way trips between stations. Here is some background information about the Praxitele. Praxitelle rates were 40 francs per 30 minutes + 2 francs per minute beyond (no distance fee).