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 unlockparis.blogspot.com.