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Autolib Brings Car Sharing to Paris

Say what you will about their incessant strikes, their unwavering arrogance or their myopic fear of modernity. But when it comes to green transportation, there's no denying that the French are well ahead of the curve. Today, it's virtually impossible to stroll through the streets of Paris without seeing at least a few people cruising around on Vélibs -- the public bikes first introduced a few years ago. Whether they're commuters, tourists, or late night revelers, virtually everyone in Paris has latched on to the bicycle sharing system, thanks in large part, of course, to the commodious bike lanes that run throughout the city. The program has been so successful, in fact, that the City of Lights is now planning on introducing a similar public transport initiative -- for cars.

Set to launch next fall, the Autolib program is essentially a cross between the Vélib system, and Zipcar. The initiative calls for 3,000 battery-powered cars to be scattered across 1,000 self-service charging stations located throughout the city. Anyone with a valid driver's license can pick up a so-called 'Bluecar' at the hiring point, and drop it off at any other station. Subscribers will have to pay roughly $15 per month, and about $6.50 for the first half-hour of use. The next half-hour will cost them about $5.30, with each subsequent 30-minute period priced at nearly $8.00.

This pricing scheme is intended to encourage short trips, which is exactly what the Bluecar is made for. Designed by Italian automaker Pininfarina, the car is powered by a lithium metal polymer battery, which allows it to travel up to 155 miles without being charged. It also comes with a GPS navigation system to help users find their way around the city's labyrinthine back alleys, and an emergency call button, just in case a quotidian street protest takes a turn for the violent. The only downside, however, is its speed, which tops out at a paltry 80 mph. But then again, if you're driving down the Boulevard St. Germain, you'd probably wanna take your time, anyway.

Tags: Autolib, battery, BlueCar, car, car sharing, CarSharing, Electric car, ElectricCar, france, green, paris, Pininfarina, public transportation, PublicTransportation, top, transportation, velib