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Autolib’ Is Coming. Will Foreigners Be Allowed to Use It?

Dispatch from Paris | Published : 17/Aug/2011 04:00

Autolib’ : Shelter

Docking station / shelter. Who would have thought that Parisians and their shadows lead separate lives? [Image: Autolib’-Paris].

As we have previously mentioned in these pages, the city of Paris is readying a car equivalent of the hugely popular bike rental service, Vélib’. The new service, predictably named Autolib’, will allow renting small 4-seat electric cars for short trips in the city and environs. Vehicles can be dropped off at the most convenient docking station (not necessarily where they were picked up). Pricing is by the minute (with a 20-minute minimum), with the rate beyond one hour increasing (to encourage customers to take shorter trips).


The service is poised to open with a huge environmental lead over almost every other car-sharing initiative: first, it is a genuine zero-emission program (thanks to the cars’ being 100% electric), and second, it actually reduces car use in the city by encouraging one-way trips. In addition, in order to spur the adoption of all matter of things electric and moving in Paris, some Autolib’ stations will have extra outlets to allow the charging of non-affiliated 4- and 2-wheel vehicles (for a fee, of course). When the service is fully rolled out, the cars will be available at thousands of stations all over the Paris region. In other words, many an urbanist’s dream of a true shared city vehicle network is finally being realized.

Autolib : Car
There’s only one caveat. Unless you’re a long-term resident of l’Hexagone, don’t expect to fly to Paris and hop into one of those blue babies on arrival. Or, most likely, ever. Autolib’ being a typically French initiative, the subscription process (for which there will be yearly, weekly, and daily options) is rather rigorous and will require not only a personal visit to one of the 75 staffed Autolib’ centers, a conversation with an agent and a cash deposit, but also a good amount of paperwork, including proof of residence (one assumes, in France [1]). This seems to put Autolib’ completely out of reach for tourists and business visitors to the city.

Administrative overshoot? A typically Gallic affection for extra paperwork? Excessive caution? Not necessarily. Speaking at the press conference announcing the launch, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë was quick to point out that the service doesn’t aim to compete with either public transportation or the taxis, and the way Autolib’ is being described, it certainly won’t take away that lucrative “lost foreigner” market from the latter.

Launching in October 2011.

MORE AT: www.autolib-paris.fr

[1] All signs point to this requirement, applied to the letter, not being satisfied by proof-of-residence documents bearning a non-French address. My email to the Direction de l’Information et de la Communication at the Paris City Hall, seeking to clarify the situation, was not answered.