Autolib logoAutolib.frParis already has one of the largest bike-sharing programs in the world; now it wants to add a car-sharing program, with all electric cars. From NPR:

Autolib, which stands for auto liberte, will allow Parisians to rent an electric vehicle whenever they need to, with the goal of cutting down on car ownership, traffic and pollution.

Paris’ pedestrians and cyclists have had a lot to celebrate in a decade of pro-green policies. Since 2001, traffic in the city has dropped nearly 25 percent because of better public transport and restrictions on automobiles.

… Now, with Autolib, many people may be able to get rid of their cars entirely, says Paris’ deputy mayor, Annick Lepetit.

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“Why not?” she says. “There are many people who absolutely need a car, but with Autolib, they’ll have a car. The advantage will be that it will be a lot cheaper and less of a hassle, because they’ll be able to pick it up from one place and turn it in anywhere else in the city, without looking for parking.”

Sounds like Zipcar programs in the U.S., but more convenient because drivers can drop the car off anywhere in the city instead of having to return it to its assigned parking spot.  Good stuff.

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A program like this could make people more comfortable giving up car ownership, as they’ll know they can still easily get their hands on a vehicle if they need it.  At the same time, if someone has to make that extra effort to climb behind the wheel, they’re likely to drive less often. 

Of course, Paris has some unique social concerns to reconcile:

Autolib could suffer the kind of theft and vandalism that plagued Velib [the bike-sharing program]. Although the situation has now improved, the sturdy gray bikes had a shaky start. Nearly 8,000 of the original 20,000 bikes in the program were stolen or ended up hung from lampposts or thrown into the river Seine.

… City officials say the electric vehicles will be much harder to damage or steal than the Velib bikes. But burning cars is practically a national sport in France. Every weekend, hundreds of automobiles are burned by disgruntled youths in cities across the country.

Then again, maybe burning cars is more green than driving them…