Bollore Group plans EV car-sharing service in U.S.

Bollore's Bluecar EVs are pictured using the company's road-side charging stations in Paris.

Photo credit: Reuters
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LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- France's Bollore Group is setting up a car-sharing program for electric vehicles in the United States.

The company already offers similar services in France and the group has said it will launch a car-sharing program in London this year, backed by a 100 million pound investment.

The group, headed by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, is investing about $35 million to create the BlueIndy service in Indianapolis, the company said on Sunday. The program, beginning within eight months, will use as many as 500 of Bollore's Bluecars and 1,000 charging stations, Vincent Bollore said in an interview.

"We thought it would be good to start with a medium-size" U.S. city, said Bollore. "We want to show the electric car is the best solution for the future."

The U.S. arrival of the Bollore Group, which makes its own lithium metal polymer batteries for its electric cars, is the latest development in an emerging segment led by Elon Musk's Tesla Motors Inc., maker of the premium Model S sedan, and Nissan Motor Corp.'s Leaf electric hatchback.

Bollore is counting on U.S. drivers who want access to a low-pollution alternative to regular combustion cars. The Bluecars can be rented for as little as $10 an hour. To break even in Indianapolis, which had about 835,000 residents in 2012, the program needs at least 20,000 annual subscribers, Bollore said.

Bollore's Bluecars can travel about 150 miles (250 kilometers) per charge, the executive said.

The Bluecar was designed by Italy's Pininfarina studio in Turin and produced nearby by Cecomp.

Europe services

In addition to the Autolib car-share program in Paris, the company offers similar services in the French cities of Lyon and Bordeaux.

In Paris the scheme has about 12,000 rentals a day and operates more than 4,800 charge points. It expects to break even ahead of its expected target in November this year.

In March, Bollore unveiled plans to introduce a similar scheme in London by 2016, with 3,000 electric cars available to the city’s residents.

Batteries made by Bollore's Blue Solutions in France's Brittany province are cheaper than lithium ion cells used in other electric cars, holding down the cost of the company’s small vehicles, Bollore said.

Along with expanding to other U.S. regions such as California, Bollore said he wants to offer his car-share service and electric vehicles to China and other markets. "Until now the electric car is only for rich people," Bollore said. "We have a unique solution."

Bollore Group, based in Paris, has assets in the transport, agriculture, energy and communications industries, including stakes in French advertiser Havas and Paris-based phone and entertainment company Vivendi. Over 30 years, Bollore has transformed his family's business from a struggling paper-mill into the Bollore holding company with a market value of 12.9 billion euros ($17.7 billion) and interests in banking, media and shipping.

Reuters contributed to this report

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