Largest U.S. Electric Car Sharing Service Coming To Indiana

The Indiana capital of Indianapolis isn’t a city one normally thinks of as cutting edge in its green technology efforts. Its mayor Greg Ballard, though, is a retired Marine with time served in the Saudi Arabian oil fields during the First Gulf War, so he understands well the need to get our nation off of imported fossil fuels. He late last year pushed for wide scale adoption of greener vehicles in his city’s vehicle fleet, and now has thrown his weight behind a project inspired by a similar undertaking in Paris to bring the nation’s largest electric car share program to his town.

Ballad’s administration will be working alongside Bolloré Group, who are the folks behind the Autolib project in Paris, as well as Indianapolis’ largest employers, universities, hospitality destinations and civic organizations. Bolloré specifically said it will invest approximately $35 million to launch the as yet unnamed program in the city next year – perhaps as soon as next spring.

It will feature 500 electric vehicles and 1,200 charging stations at 200 car-share locations. By comparison, numbers from the share service in France’s capital currently indicate over 1,700 electric vehicles, 4,200 charging stations and 37,000 members in play.

Vehicles used in the new EV sharing service will be a U.S.-made car, likely the Nissan Leaf or the electric Ford Focus. (image via Energy Systems Network)

Vehicles used in the new EV sharing service will be a U.S.-made car, likely the Nissan Leaf or the electric Ford Focus. (image via Energy Systems Network)

The nuts and bolts of how this new EV sharing service will work, according to Energy Systems Network, goes something like this:

The program is based around short one-way rentals, unlike some other US models which require the user to return to the vehicle where they rented it. Users pay a membership fee (daily, monthly, or annually) and receive an RFID card. When they wish to rent a vehicle they reserve a car on-line or at a dedicated car share kiosk, they unlock the car charger with their card, and then swipe the card on the windshield, which unlocks the car and allows them to drive off.

The in-car GPS allows the user to reserve a parking spot with a charging station near their destination. Once they arrive, plug-in the vehicle and the transaction is complete. The user can then reserve another vehicle for their next trip, as needed. The rates for the Indianapolis service have not yet been established, but in Paris, membership costs $16 per month and a 20-minute trip costs about $4.50.

As was noted, this isn’t the first electric car sharing service to come to the United States, but it certainly will be the most significant. Also, the vehicles to be purchased by Bolloré and used in the program, according to Greentech Media, “will be a U.S.-made car, likely the Nissan Leaf or the electric Ford Focus.”

What’s nice as well is that the dense network of charging stations will be made available to private electric vehicle owners.

“This program provides a great opportunity for downtown workers, residents and visitors to get around town in a car without owning one,” said Mayor Ballard in a statement. “This service allows a person, government or company to only pay for a car when they need and want it. They aren’t paying for fuel, insurance, maintenance and parking costs when the vehicle is not in use.”

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.