Paris flicks the switch today on the world's most high profile electric car sharing scheme, kicking off a two-month trial involving an initial 66 vehicles.
The €35m Autolib scheme has been championed by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who wants to expand it to 3,000 vehicles and more than 1,000 rental stations by the end of 2012.
Members pay a €10 membership fee, which allows them to rent one of Autolib's Bluecars for half an hour at €4 to €8 a time. The cars can be reserved in advance and returned to any station.
The Bluecar has been developed by Italian design firm Pininfarina and French company Groupe Bollore, whose founder, entrepreneur Vincent Bollore, told journalists that it has a range of up to 250km and can fully recharge in just four hours.
Bollore also told reporters that the cars' alternative lithium-metal-polymer batteries are less prone to overheating than the batteries used in mant electric vehicles.
The launch of Autolib - named after Paris' four-year-old Velib bike-sharing system - comes after a study published by Chronos TNS Sofres which found that 25 per cent of French citizens have cut back or abandoned using their cars owing to soaring insurance and parking costs.
"We want to persuade people to shift from the concept of owning a car to that of using a car," Autolib general manager Morald Chibout told news agency Reuters.