Public Electric Cars: Should London adapt this second model of Paris’ public transports?

From Bikes to the Electric Car.

The Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme was launched in London in July 2010. The scheme allows members of the public to hire bicycles for short trips from docking stations around London and return them to a station when they reach their destination. After payment of a subscriber’s fee, the first half hour of bicycle hire is free, although a credit card is required to release the bicycles.

The scheme has proved successful, though not without its problems, in providing a more environmentally friendly means of transport. The so-called ‘Boris Bikes’, named after the mayor of London who promoted them, followed a French model. The Velib bicycle hire scheme began in Paris in 2007 and now numbers almost 20,000 public hire bicycles.

In December 2011 in Paris the Velib bicycle hire scheme was followed by Autolib. Autolib operates on the same principles as the bicycle scheme but hires electric cars rather than bicycles. Anyone who subscribes to the scheme and holds a valid driving license can hire a ‘Bluecar’ from a recharging station. There is a set charge per 30 minutes usage. Presently there are more subscribers than capacity but the scheme hopes to have 3,000 of the electric ‘Bluecars’ on the road by the end of 2013 (see www.autolib.eu).

The ‘Boris Car’?

There is already a scheme in London- Source London – which, for an annual fee, allows private electric car users access to a network of charge points. Given that there is an infrastructure for charging the vehicles already in place, and that London has already copied the Parisian bicycle hire scheme, it would seem that a public electric car hire scheme would be the next logical step.

There would be a number of immediate benefits if an electric car hire scheme were to be implemented in London. It would benefit London’s air quality. The scheme could also help solve traffic congestion problems. The French experience has shown that an effective scheme could have the potential to reduce car ownership. Observers note that car ownership is an often unnecessary expense – especially in big cities – and that many commuters would be happy to simply use rather than own a vehicle.

There could be a number of problems in implementing such a scheme. Vandalism plagued the introduction of the bicycle hire scheme in France, with 8,000 of the original 20,000 bicycles destroyed or stolen. Vandal-proofing the electric cars could prove an expensive business. Any future scheme will also have to prevent the cars being left uncharged and abandoned should they venture too far from the nearest charging station.

But the largest threat to any future scheme may turn out to be a lack of political will. The London Mayor has already cut back on a projected target of 25,000 electric car charge points by 2015. Now the target is just 1,300 by the end of the year.

Written by R. Lambert for and on behalf of Manchester based car dealer Concept Car Credit. For more information visit the website on www.conceptcarcredit.co.uk.

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