At Paris for Visitors, we've described the Vélib' bike-rental program, which was the model for many bike-sharing programs around the world. Now Paris and its surrounding communities have something for people who prefer four wheels to two: the Autolib' car-rental program, which has been tested in Paris for several months and had its full public launch on December 1, 2011.
The program currently has 250 stations. By June, 2012, the network will grow to some 1,000 stations in and around Paris, with 3,000 self-service vehicles for rent at 700 Paris stations and another 300 cars for hire outside the city limits. The Autolib' cars are 100% electric and have GPS navigation systems to keep drivers from getting lost.
Here's the program works:
Step 1: You sign up for a membership by the day, week, or year. You can register at any Autolib' station or at the Autolib' Welcome Center at 5 rue Edouard VII in the 9th arrondissement. You'll need a driver's license, a passport or national identity card, and a credit card. (Agents are on duty at Autolib' stations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; the Welcome Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
Step 2: Once you've registered, you can reserve a car in advance at an Autolib' station, online, or by phone. If you need to keep the car longer than the 90-minute maximum, you can add more time (and electricity) by visiting a "recharge space" at any station. On average, each station has six parking spots, and you can return your rental car to any Autolib' location.
Here's what the French Government Tourist Office has to say about membership options:
Daily subscription: 10 euros registration fee plus 7 euros for the first half-hour, 6 euros for the second half-hour, and 8 euros for reach additional half-hour when you rent a car.
Weekly subscription: 15 euros registration fee, plus the same prices per half-hour as above.
Yearly subscription (something to consider if you're planning to become an expat or visiting Paris on a sabbatical): 144 euros per year or 12 euros per month registration fee, plus 5 euros for the first half-hour, 4 euros for the second half-hour, and 6 euros for each additional half-hour of car use.
Families get a 10% discount on all subscriptions, so drive in convoy and save!
BELOW: An Autolib' electric car, and a map of communities in and around Paris that are participating in Autolib'.