Following in the tyre-treads of Velib’, Paris’ innovative and successful public bike hire scheme, this week the city launched Autolib’, a similar system for cars.

Autolib’ -- which translates as “self service car” -- is the first short-term, public car rental system of this scale in a European capital.  

The concept is simple: pick up one of the 3,000 Bluecars (which are actually a very Parisian grey) at an Autolib’ station, do your shopping, go to a meeting, visit friends and then drop off the car at any one of the 1,120 Autolib’ stations in Paris once you’re done. The scheme is ecologically friendly, not only in its aim to reduce the number of privately-owned cars on the road (with an estimated reduction of around 22,500 vehicles in the Ile-de-France region), but also due to the fact that the rental cars are 100% electric.

Both residents and tourists can rent a car from the automatic kiosks provided they have an international driving license, ID and a chip-and-pin credit card. Cars can be rented in increments of 30 minutes, with prices increasing after the first hour. Unlike at the entirely self-service Velib’ stations, smiling, multi-lingual representatives are on hand (either in person or via video conference) at every Autolib’ station to help you sign up, and they can also be contacted once you are driving via the in-car video screen.

The cost of rental is two-part: a membership fee, which can either be for a year (144 euros), a week (15 euros) or a day (10 euros), and the vehicle rental rate, which ranges between 4 to 8 euros for half an hour, depending on which membership plan you choose.

After the simple sign up, you’ll be all set to zip around Paris in the comfort of a car. Just brace yourself if you plan on driving round the Etoile, Paris’ notoriously chaotic, multi-lane roundabout encircling the Arc de Triomphe.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes