By: Christian Okolski
Just over a week ago, the French industrial company Bolloré Group put out a press release to announce the launch of its 100 percent electric car-share service in Indianapolis. The launch of this service, dubbed BlueIndy, coincided with the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) annual conference, which was also held in Indianapolis. To commemorate the occasion, the City’s Mayor, Greg Ballard, called BlueIndy an “innovative, economical and environmentally friendly mode of transportation” and expressed hopes that Indianapolis would “lead the way for other U.S. cities”.
Although customers are not using this all-electric car-share service just yet, Bolloré Group expects BlueIndy to be in full operation within the next eight months. To ensure a strong rollout and success, Bolloré Group plans to invest an incredible $35 million dollars in vehicles and infrastructure, which marks a significant commitment to the Indianapolis car-share market as well the French company’s business in the United States. Included in this investment will be 500 electric cars for sharing and 200 service stations that will supply a total of 1,000 electric vehicle charging units. According to Forbes, Mayor Ballard has revealed that the service will be supported by a revenue model that charges customers a recurring subscription fee along with a vehicle usage fee of approximately $10 per hour. He also expects the service to be profitable in five to seven years.
BlueIndy may seem like a potentially risky venture, but it will certainly be a true pioneer as the first all-electric car-share service to ever be introduced in the United States. Sure, companies like ZipCar and Car2Go may have electric vehicles in their own car-share fleets, but BlueIndy is exclusively electric. It will also bring a completely new type of electric car to the United States, which is supplied by Bolloré Group itself and has previously only populated European roads. Called the Bluecar, this economical electric vehicle is a two-door hatchback that seats four comfortably and is powered by unique, lithium-polymer batteries. However, while the Bluecar is larger than micro-cars such as those sold by Smart, it has relatively limited cargo room and versatility.
While BlueIndy and the $35 million investment is the first of its kind for Bolloré Group’s efforts in this country, the company has been building out electric car-share services in France since December 2011. Autolib’ was its first all-electric car-share service, which operates in and around Paris and has been used by approximately 140,000 subscribers. This success prompted Bolloré Group to expand with Bluely in Lyon and Bluecub in Bordeaux, and it is now looking to further expand its car-share business to London, England, as reported by The Guardian.
Emerging from the success of its sister ventures in France, BlueIndy is making Indianapolis a pioneer of the car-share industry. It is also a critical component of Mayor Ballard’s mission to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Ballard’s efforts even helped Indianapolis win the 2013 “E-Visionary” award from the World Electric Vehicle Association. Ultimately, BlueIndy is good for the electric vehicle industry and consumer awareness, good for Indianapolis and its air quality, and hopefully a venture that cities across America will be able to embrace. If BlueIndy proves to be successful, it may not be long before similar projects spread from New York to Los Angeles and countless cities in between. BlueIndy could be the beginning of a revolution in urban transportation and sustainability.