Electric car-sharing scheme comes to London from France

An electric car driven by Christine Lagarde

Thousands of vehicles will be available for hire in London next year – but how will the scheme work?

LAST UPDATED AT 15:19 ON Thu 10 Jul 2014

An electric car-sharing scheme will be introduced in London next year in an attempt to reduce air pollution.

Over 3,000 of the low-cost, environmentally friendly e-cars will be on our streets by March next year, according to the Evening Standard.

The scheme fits into a new culture of driving, where attitudes towards car-sharing are changing, the company's communication director Julien Varintold The Guardian. "Cars used to be like toothbrushes – you didn't share, you didn't borrow", he said. "But we're shifting from a possession model to a usage model."

Piloted in Paris, the scheme has proven to be extremely popular across France, but how will Londoners take to it?

How will it work? 

The system is "quite straightforward", says Jon Henley of the Guardian having taken a test drive in Paris. Similar to the Boris bike scheme, customers can hire one of the cars from any of the hundreds of docking stations across the city. Customers will have to register as members and will be given an electronic membership card which unlocks the car. They can then return the car to any of the docking stations to charge. A fully charged car has a maximum range of 155 miles.

How much will it cost? 

There will be several membership varieties, including a monthly, weekly or half-hourly option. The company has confirmed it is planning to charge £5 for half an hour, but the longer the membership arrangement, the cheaper the rental becomes.

What are the benefits: 

The cars are 100 per cent electric and so have no emissions, a powerful selling point after a study this week claimed London has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the world. In a city where owning as car is extremely expensive and can often be inconvenient, they are extremely cost-effective and easy to use. Electric cars are also lighter and so reduce the load regular cars place on the city roads. The scheme could make London "the world's most advanced sustainable transport city," says company president Vincent Bollore.

What could go wrong? 

There are strong concerns that the scheme will lead to worse congestion in the city, with people who would normally use public transport adding to the already overcrowded roads. Critics point out that London already struggles to meet the demand for parking spaces and with the need for thousands of spaces, this scheme will simply increase the problem. There are also worries that this low-cost option will be "unfair competition" to taxis and regular car-hire services. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.