Bluepoint reveals plans to power up London EV car hire scheme
French conglomerate aims to repeat success of Autolib EV hire scheme in the UKElectric vehicle (EV) charging network operator Bluepoint has revealed plans to expand its fledgling plug-in car hire business across London, following the success of Paris' Autolib scheme.
The company, which is a division of infrastructure giant Groupe Bollore, operates the Source London EV charging network while its sister company Bluecity operates an EV hire scheme, which emulates the 'Boris Bike' cycle hire scheme by allowing customers to pick up electric cars on demand and pay for them on a per minute basis.
In an exclusive interview with BusinessGreen last month, Bluepoint managing director Christophe Arnaud said a trial of the scheme in Hammersmith and Fulham had delivered encouraging results.
Bluepoint operates 100 charge points in the borough and Bluecity is now providing more than 30 EVs for people to pay to access on the go.
"We just launched officially a few months ago, but we have been trialling the scheme since December last year with a few cars to demonstrate how it works," Arnaud explained. "The plan is to expand the charge points in the borough and the neighbouring borough, and then keep adding more cars to reach around 50 cars this year."Bluecity is using the Source London network. They are a customer, like any other EV owner registered to Source London. They pay the same amount of money to use the chargers."
He added that take up of the scheme was continuing to accelerate. "We just launched and we only have 30 cars, but in a one month period we are adding every day more and more users," he said. "To launch it properly we did a partnership with the borough to make sure people are aware of the new service and the fact they can try an EV. What does it mean? It means that actually we are offering to the residents a few hours of free rental to test it. To try it; to see how easy it is to drive an EV. Then they will be able to rent it at 17p a minute, and we will look at the figures in a few months to see where we are."
He revealed the company was already providing more than 200 rentals a week and was looking to expand the scheme.
"The purpose is really to create the right network for people to start the rental at a charge point and end the rental at another charge point," he said. "That's key because you end the rental when you drop it back to a comparable charge point. On average, people are taking about an hour driving in London. It is short journeys. We see people taking the car from Hammersmith, driving to Hackney, doing what they want to do in Hackney - working, meeting a friend, whatever - and then they are taking a car back.
"Right now we are operating in Hammersmith, which means we have the support of the Borough to have the car waiting for customers in Hammersmith. Should the driver drop the car in another borough after a period of time our own team are dropping it back to Hammersmith. That is why it is critical to have a new borough join, and this is going to happen very soon."
He added that giving people the opportunity to try driving EVs would help boost the wider market for plug-in vehicles. "It is about demonstrating the product and making sure that people who are not ready to switch from an ICE [internal combustion engine] car to an EV can now have an experience with an EV," he said. "We are bringing the car right to their door, and saying 'you can just try it'."
Arnaud also revealed Source London was working on plans to make it easier for EV owners to take advantage of the UK's growing network of charge points.A number of different operators are currently providing charging infrastructure, and Arnaud predicted moves would soon be made to ensure drivers can access charge points operated by rival providers.
"At the end of the year we will introduce to all our charge points the possibility to pay through ad hoc payments without registering or subscribing with the network," he revealed. "Anyone will be able to access the charge points and pay. Then it is also about discussing and pursuing roaming agreements with other operators. That is something we do and will continue to do... In the long term, like with the petrol stations, the market will merge a bit, but I think we will see roaming contracts with different operators to allow any user to access with the same card or have the possibility to pay in an ad hoc manner."