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Autolib electric car-sharing service eyes London

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(Read caption) A parking station for the Autolib electric car-share scheme is seen on a street in Paris. The company is now expanding its service into London.

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Car-sharing services have proven popular for city-based users, many preferring to use the conveniently-located cars in lieu of buying, owning and running their own.

Few have been more successful than the Parisian Autolib electric car sharing business though. Owned by Bollore, It runs thousands of Bollore Bluecar EVs in Paris, each of which is used up to ten times per day.

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That success is seeing it expand into other cities, the latest being the British capital London.

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Conveniently for Bollore, London already has a large network of electric car charging points. British drivers haven't really taken to electric vehicles just yet, meaning many charging networks are going unused.

According to City A.M., the company will take over 1,500 of these from Transport for London and Siemens in the Summer.

The service will build slowly, with 100 vehicles expected within the first year. In Paris, that number tops 1,800 vehicles, showing the service's potential for growth.

So quickly has Autolib grown that it's on track to break even by its third birthday, a whole four years ahead of schedule. In London, it's set itself a six-year break-even target.

Could British drivers take to the concept as quickly as their French counterparts? Well rental costs are relatively low, at £10 an hour ($16.60) broken into 15-minute segments.

Electric cars are the default choice for such a service in London, too. The city lowered its CO2-based 'Congestion Charge' limit to 75 g/km last year, meaning only plug-in cars escape the $16.60-per-day charge for driving into the center of the capital.

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That's before you even consider parking costs (which are high), fuel prices (which are double those of the U.S.) and other motoring-related costs. A central-Londoner making Autolib journeys, paying only when necessary, could save a fortune over the course of a year.

Vincent Bollore, the company's president, admits that electric car sharing isn't "normalized or understood" in London yet, but he's comfortable about the success of the project.

Plans for another Autolib service, in Indianapolis, seem to have gone quiet however.

Bollore signed a deal with the city in June last year, for 500 vehicles and 1,200 charging stations--enough to make it the largest electric car-sharing service in the U.S.

The small Bluecar models would be eschewed in favor of larger, more suitable vehicles like the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf.

The service is presumably still in the planning stage--no timeframe was set at the time--but we look forward to hearing further details on Autolib's expansion--and whether it can work outside its home city, Paris.

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