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Bollore's electric car-sharing program is popular in Paris and about to make big inroads in Indianapolis.
The French company plans to invest $35 million in a car-sharing system that includes 500 plug-in cars and 1,200 charging stations at 200 rental locations across the metro area.
At a news conference outside City Market Monday afternoon, Mayor Greg Ballard said, "Right out of the gate Indianapolis will have the largest electric car-sharing system in the United States."
Car sharing allows people who buy a membership to rent a car by the minute to go from one point to another (usually small distances) with free, premium parking and no refueling costs.
Ballard said the system "will make Indianapolis more attractive to new residents and talent and make Indianapolis one of the most, if not the most, electrified cities in the U.S."
Why Indianapolis? Bollore's Herve Muller said for one, the mayor's commitment to converting the city's entire fleet to electric or natural gas vehicles by 2025.
He said other important factors include "the fact that you have this dynamic city with a strong business environment, a very large student population, a convention center, attractions and sporting events that draw a lot of people" as well as continued growth in downtown living.
Herve said the biggest draws to car sharing?
"It's convenient and affordable."
While prices haven't yet been set, a membership for the company's Paris program runs $16 a month with a 20-minute trip averaging $4.50.
He said those wanting to rent a car can reserve one online or go to a rental kiosk, where you're assigned a car parked there, swipe the windshield, unplug it and take off. The GPS system then allows the driver to reserve a parking spot with a charging station near their destination.
Herve said you're charged from the moment you unplug to the moment you plug in. For the return trip, you take a different car.
Proponents say it makes taking the bus and biking to work easier. If you have an off-site meeting, you can get a car to go and another to come back. But will it take off? Eyewitness News asked several people on Monument Circle over the lunch hour.
"I know Indiana has been looking into alternative energies, so I think it's a good thing," said Logan Garner.
"No, I wouldn't use it. I have my own vehicle and access to a garage for my job," Terry Wagner said.
Sara McClammer said, "I think it's great for people who live downtown and don't need a car every day. I think it's hard to live in Indianapolis and not have a car. It's required, but it is one step toward some people not needing cars."
Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College, was among the dozens of people attending Monday's news conference.
He called it a great option for students and staff.
"We have a pool vehicle for staff and it's used infrequently, so that's saving money right away. I also see it giving students without a car point-to-point transportation, particularly between our downtown and Lawrence locations," Snyder said.
Chris Gahl with Visit Indy also said it could provide a great alternative for conventioneers and tourists, here without a car to see area attractions.
"It's an easy zip to Conner Prairie or an easy zip to the IMA," Gahl said. "Some of those attractions that aren't within walking distance, this is very conducive to that."
The hope is to have the system up and running next spring. Herve said one of the first things is identifying the 200 rental locations and parking spots where charging stations can be installed.
Likely locations include several places downtown, on Mass Avenue, in Broad Ripple, Fountain Square, on college and corporate campuses and even as far north as Carmel.
The Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric are the two vehicles Bollore is considering for its fleet.