Autolib in Paris: public rental/shared cars

I've been testing Autolib for a few months now, and it's a great way of transportation in Paris, something in between taking a cab or the traditional public …More
I've been testing Autolib for a few months now, and it's a great way of transportation in Paris, something in between taking a cab or the traditional public transportation (Metro, Bus,...).

The principle is pretty simple, it's a fleet of a 1000+ electric car (3000 by end of 2012) that can be rented from several hundreds of dedicated stations (1200 by end of 2012) in Paris ans its suburbs. Once you register and get your electronic badge, the rental can be done very easilly.

Registration process: it can be done in one of the dedicated stations for memberships, sort of half circles. You have in each one of these stations a vidéo steward who will help you step by step. The hole process takes 10 to 15 minutes and you need to have with you an ID, your driving license and a credit card. You can see the membership's stations by following the link:

For foreigners/tourists who have an European Union driving licence, you can directly use it. For those who have a non EU driving license, you will need to have your national driving license + an international one. You need both for it to work, similarly to a normal rent a car service.

Rent a car: you can check out on the map available cars in the stations near you, whether from your computer or by downloading the Autolib application on your smartphone. You can than go straight to the station to take a car or book a car by calling Autolib assistance on 0800942000 (normal french local call). They will book you a car in the station you want for 30 minutes. You can also book a place in the station near the place you're going and you'll have up to 90 minutes to park it there. You can find all the details of how to take a car on the website

Here's the test drive feedback:
Onboard equipments: you have a touch screen which includes a GPS, a Radio, and the Assistance information.
It's very practical because you can see on the map all the nearby stations and if there are available places. Nevertheless, the GPS sometimes indicates weird tracks, wereas it avoids almost always the Periférique and sometimes the system reboots or jams. If the GPS jams, you need to park aside the car, get out of it, and rebadge in order to r-initiate the whole system.

There's a 24/7 assistance call button below the screen and it's very practical too. You can call them for any problem or to book a place in a station. I tried several time in week days and week ends, and they are pretty available even at 2am.

Driving sensations:
The bluecar has a full automatic gearbox, with only Neutral, Drive and Rear options. As it is an electric car, there is no engine noise, but just a sort of light wistle of the traction system. For people that are not used to driving automatic gearboxes, they should be careful in the beginning, and always remember that we use only the right leg to drive and brake.

The acceleration is slow in the beginning, which is good in order to easilly park/unpark the car. Once you go over 10km/h, the acceleration is good and you arrive pretty quickly to 50km/h. On highway, I could reach 110 km/h maximum although I thought that the car would go to 130 km/h.
The car is light and pretty high, which gives a sensation of instability when turning in medium/high speed. This reminds you that it's a city car. Braking power was satisfactory when I did an emergency stop.

Car Autonomy: the theoteric autonomy is 200km but in reality it's probably less. I took a car at 21h00 and went to Charles de Gaulle Airport (42km), stayed there 3 hours (-6%), and came back to Paris (42km). So in total I spent 60% of the battery for 85km and 3 hours of parking. The outside temperature was -2°c.
So it's more than enough for Paris and it's region.

State of the cars: The quality assembling and design of the cars made by Italian Pininfarina is pretty low. Many low quality plastics, weak assembling of parts and low general quality of material. Some conception mistakes were really big, like choosing a light tissue for seats, difficult to clean and on which you can see all types of traces. Fortunatly they replaced this horrible tissue with plastic-leather much easier to clean.

Although the cars are still pretty new with many having a few 100 kms on the counter, they are often dirty from outside, reducing even sometimes the side visibility. Fortunatly, cars are usually acceptably clean from inside, similar to metro or bus public transports. I think that Autolib should find a way to clean the cars more often and put water for the windscreen washer.

Price: (Minimum rental time= 20 minutes, afterwards charge /min)
1 day membership: 10 EUR membership + 7 EUR per 30 minutes
7 days membership: 15 EUR membership + 7 EUR per 30 minutes
Monthly membership: 30 EUR membership + 6 EUR per 30 minutes
Yearly membership: 12 EUR/month membership + 5 EUR per 30 minutes

Comparison with other means:
For a 30 minutes ride, it will cost 5 EUR in Autolib, 1.7 EUR by public transport, and more than 35 EUR by taxi.

In conclusion: I find the Autolib system very interesting, much more convenient than public transportation (especially at night) and much cheaper than taxis. Often using Autolib to go out at night will cost you even less than taking your own car as you don't have to pay the parking and the gazoline.

After having tested it with a weekly membership, I took the year membership and use it several times a week. It's now my preferred transportation mean in Paris. I hope that they will keep up with the good service and that they will clean the cars more often.
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