Paris traffic
Traffic on the Avenue des
Champs-elysees, Paris, France (CC)

Bertrand Delanoe, the Mayor of Paris, has proposed a greener way to travel in the City of Light: Autolib', a self-service electric car rental system. My name is Francios - I'm from France but at the moment I'm an intern here in the Greenpeace NZ office. Those who have been in Paris know that Paris is the kind of exhilarating city that would be perfect without its cars. Every single place you go, you see cars: Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees and, of course, the Arc de Triomphe. The Parisian way of driving a car is infamous in France and most of the non-Paris-inhabitants don't even dare to drive in the city unless they really have to.


Cue a system where people can "borrow" an electric car for a period of time. 4,000 cars will be available, half in Paris and the other half in the suburbs.

So, why is the Mayor of Paris interested in making of Paris one of the most clean and green cities in the world? Some would talk about the coming elections… One thing is sure: Paris needs it. Anyway, Delanoe created successfully the Velib' one year ago: a self-service system to rent bicycles. The scheme has been very successful, and attempts have been made to replicate it in other cities. Now he wants to go further and encourage another sustainable way of traveling. The Autolib' concept already exists in Lyon - the second most populated city in France - and it works well. Why? Because driving a car in such big cities is anything but a pleasure. Driving and parking are as hard as they are dangerous. Parking tickets and insurance prices are more and more expensive. So it makes sense to pick up a car only when one is needed, and have ready-made parking places available when you're done with it. There are going to be 700 park stations in Paris. For $500 per month, people can use any of those cars for any time. This might sounds like a lot, but needs to be compared with the price of a car (divided by the number of years you'd own it for), insurance, parking, petrol etc.  Studies show that having your own car in Paris costs about $800 per month. Studies also show that each Autolib' car can replace 8 regular ones. In the end, the streets should be cleaner and quieter.

If you compare Paris and Auckland, there are two big differences: Paris' population is higher and public transport is more developed but one thing remains common: people driving are almost always traveling by themselves. How sad is a traffic jam with as many cars as there are people? Since the government seems to like improving our roads, maybe we could use a similar system as Autolib'? It will put greener cars on the roads, will be cheaper for us and will undoubtedly improve the traffic…

The Paris project is due to be launched by the end of the year. The first cars will be hybrid, but eventually all of them will be electric.