(INDIANAPOLIS) - Electric car sharing is almost here.
Mayor Greg Ballard and the owner of the Bollore (bo-LOR-ay) group from France officially opened the first charging stations for Bollore's BlueIndy all-electric car fleet. The public can test drive cars from the location at 14 East Washington street until the program begins operation later this year. Ballard has long pushed for the program as part of his green energy initiative, which includes the conversion of the city's fleet to alternative-fuel vehicles by 2025. "It will demonstrate that we can move our country's transportation sector away from oil and provide a model to the rest of this country and around the world," Ballard said.
Bollore is investing $35 million in BlueIndy, and the company makes the lithium metal polymer batteries in each car. Vincent Bollore, who owns the company, says the batteries are more dependable over the long term than the lithium-ion batteries used in other electric and hybrid cars. "The big advantage in our technology is that it is not a liquid battery, it is a solid battery, which is unique in the world for today," Bollore said. The initial plan calls for 125 cars at 25 charging locations around the city, but Bollore hopes to eventually expand that to 500 cars at 200 locations, with a total of 1,000 charging stations.
The cars have a range of up to 150 miles on a full charge with a maximum speed of 68 miles an hour. Customers buy a membership from BlueIndy, for a day, a week or a year, and then pay to rent the cars per minute. Rental rates have not been determined, but Bollore says they will likely be around $5.00 for a 30 minute rental - though you are only charged for the time you use the vehicle. "We have proposed to you a cheap, easy and good service of electric car, and that's what you have in front of you," Bollore said.
Ballard did not ask for any funding from the City-County government for the project, though the city will have to pay millions to remove parking meters and to reimburse ParkIndy for the revenue they would lose. City officials have said in the past they would try to apply for federal grants to pay for that reimbursement. Indianapolis Power and Light has also asked for a rate increase to pay for the charging stations, at a cost of up to $16 million. "The maximum rate impact would be 44-cents per month for the average residential customers beginning in 2018," said Kelly Huntington, CEO of IPL. She rebuffed criticism that only those who use the electric cars should pay for the charging stations, saying this is an investment in the growth of the city's economy, "We think forward-thinking projects like this are what make Indianapolis a great city. People could have said the same thing about building a new stadium or the cultural trail." The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is expected to vote on the rate increase later this summer. If the rate hike is not approved by October 31, BlueIndy has the right to pull out of the deal.
Bollore says BlueIndy would need up to 20,000 annual subscribers, each paying roughly $100/year plus their car rental fees, for the company to break even, which he believes will happen in four years or less. BlueIndy will employ roughly 100 people in Indianapolis.
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