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Boris jumps on board France's 'hire an electric car' scheme

Mayor may bring green travel scheme to London
  • @mjpmccarthy

First it was public bicycles he was bringing to the streets of London. Now Mayor Boris Johnson is looking at pinching another green travel idea from the French – a public electric car hire scheme.

The project would allow casual car users to pick up a publicly-owned, battery-powered, zero-carbon vehicle in one part of the city and easily drop it off in another.

Mr Johnson says it would help make London the "electric capital of Europe". His officials are studying plans to introduce a similar scheme in Paris next year called Autolib – a brainchild of the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë.

Autolib will see 4,000 electric cars sited across Paris and its suburbs, which drivers will be able to use at any time for a charge.

The scheme follows the city's hugely successful Vélib – an on-street bicycle hire scheme. Mr Johnson, a cycling enthusiast, will launch his own version of that in London in May 2010.

But the Conservative Mayor has now developed a similar enthusiasm for electric cars, and has set up a working group – the London Electric Vehicle Partnership – to encourage the car industry to speed the delivery of new technology, and increase support for drivers of electric cars in the capital.

At its first meeting late last year, representatives of the motor and energy industries and London boroughs agreed a plan to sharply increase electric car use in the capital.

Mr Johnson's officials are now looking at the capital's charging infrastructure, trialling electric technology, and closely studying Autolib – although no firm decision about introducing a London version has yet been taken.

The Parisian scheme, to begin operating at the end of this year, will see some 700 pick-up points established across the city, with 200 underground.

These will operate in the same way as Vélib. Users will either pay an annual subscription, or pay at pick-up points on the spur of the moment by using their public transport pass (equivalent to London's Oyster Card).

The great environmental attraction of the scheme is that electric cars produce no CO2 emissions.

M. Delanoë has described the plan as "a system of individual journeys that are completely clean" – although some members of the French Green party are opposed to it on the grounds that anything which puts more cars on the roads (instead of more bikes) is bad.