The pioneering electric car sharing Autolib has hit the end of the road in Paris as the city terminates their contract with Bolloré 5 years early. Officials in the French capital now refused to take the latest budget downfall.
Paris is Bolloré’s birthplace so the end of the trailblazing electric car sharing scheme is significant. The city had held the contract with the company through a syndicate that manages the scheme for about 100 municipalities in the region.
Local councillors for the Syndicat Autolib’ Vélib’ Métropole (SAVM) now refused a request by Bollore to contribute 233 million euros toward its budget shortfall that is headed into the deeper red. Estimates suggest cumulated losses of 293 million euros expected by 2023, the year that would have been the official end of the contract.
Autolib had gotten into financial difficulty for a number of reasons. Complaints about the cleanliness of the cars likely added to the number of users turning to alternative services such as the coming of Uber for example.
Bollore said in a statement it would dispute the contract termination in court. Reuters quoted Gilles Alix, head of Autolib’ SAS, saying: “Don’t believe the syndicat’s poppycock, we will go to the administrative tribunal and we will obtain a lot of money, that is how this will end”.
While this remains to be seen, the end of the contract had been foreseen and reports already suggested that talks were underway with other carmakers, who have stated an interest in replacing Autolib in Paris, including Renault, PSA, BMW and Daimler. Furthermore, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is considering to introduce a free-floating-sharing concept instead.
Launched in 2011, Autolib has 150,000 active users in Paris. It is not yet clear what will become of them and the service in future.
Moreover, it appears the bike sharing service Vélib has run into trouble as well after a change in ownership led to major problems with availability of the bikes in Paris. Numerous competitors have since taken to town, the latest being Lime. The Californian startup launched a fleet of electric kick scooters just this week reportedly.
It is unclear whether this will be Bolloré’s only downfall. The French are trying to set up electric car clubs in other cities as well but had repeatedly run into trouble. In London their BluePoint service is growing slowly if at all for example.
At least in Singapore, Bolloré subsidiary BlueSG appears to be making progress with Bolloré’s flash-charging shuttle based on the BlueTram. The project is mostly a testbed for supercaps though not unlike Bolloré electric cars always having been a showcase for the firms battery technology. For now it looks as if they may hold a few lessons for electric car sharing schemes, one being that sharing needs caring.