Renault, PSA unveil plans for electric-car services in Paris

(Bloomberg) — Renault SA and rival French automaker PSA Group unveiled plans for new electric car-sharing services in Paris just days after Mayor Anne Hidalgo pulled the plug on an operation backed by Bollore SA.

The French capital’s existing vehicle-sharing plan came under scrutiny in the months leading up to the June canceling of Bollore’s Autolib contact.

The mayor and Renault Chief Operating Officer Thierry Bollore — who has no link with the Bollore company — will hold a press conference at city hall on Wednesday to outline their plan, the municipality said in an emailed statement. PSA said separately it aims to start its own car-sharing service in the French capital by the end of the year with 500 Peugeot and Citroen electric vehicles.

The announcements come less than three weeks after Renault said it would invest more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to boost electric-car production in France. A PSA spokesman said the city is working with a number of mobility providers.

The French capital’s existing vehicle-sharing plan came under scrutiny in the months leading up to the June canceling of Bollore’s contract for a loss-making service called Autolib. Starting in 2011, the company ran the operation that allowed subscribers to pick up and drop off battery-powered cars parked in the city center and close suburbs. BMW AG and Daimler AG have also been contenders to take over the service.

Autolib shortfall

The municipality’s dispute with Autolib centered around losses, which Bollore predicted would total 300 million euros over the next five years. The company wanted taxpayers to pick up the shortfall.

It’s not clear what type of cars Renault will provide for the program. The manufacturer makes a mini electric model called Zoe, which helped boost battery-powered sales 38 percent in Europe last year, it has said. The car sells for about 23,200 euros ($27,000), excluding government inventives.

PSA will operate the service with Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero under its Free2Move brand. The vehicles can be parked anywhere, without the need for charging stations like those used by Autolib. The company already operates a similar service with partners in Lisbon and another in Madrid, where it has 180,000 users, according to the company.

Bollore will be reducing the number of Autolib cars and plug-in parking stations. The company has warned that cities benefiting from the service would pay a steep price to terminate the contract.

Paris has been a pacesetter in shared transport, introducing the Autolib service four years after launching the first large-scale urban bike sharing plan called Velib. Hidalgo is under fire for bringing in a new bike operator in January, which threw the service into disarray.

(by Ania Nussbaum)