Parisians will soon be zipping round Charles de Gaulle Etoile in little blue bubble-like cars, as the world’s first municipal electric vehicle (EV) hire scheme gets underway. Mayor Bernard Delanoë has pioneered the €110 million Autolib initiative to complement the Vélib bicycles, introduced in 2007. The fleet of 3,000 lithium battery-powered cars is designed by Italian partner Pininfarina, best known for their work on desirable brands like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Manufactured by French company Bolloré, they will be available later this year from 1,000 self-service hire points throughout the city.
The four-seater ‘Bluecars’ will be able to travel about 250km on one charge, with a full recharge taking around four hours. They’re designed for efficiency rather than pace: a top speed of 130km/h won’t thrill Jeremy Clarkson. But for people simply wanting a straightforward car to hop across town in, they could be ideal. They come equipped with GPS and an emergency call button in case of an accident.
Subscription to the scheme costs just €12 a month, with additional charges of €5 for the first half an hour of use, €4 for the next, and €6 for each subsequent 30-minute slot. The charging rates are clearly designed to favour single, short-ish trips, rather than compete with mainstream car hire schemes. Bluecar needs to attract just 160,000 subscribers to cover its costs, an achievable feat in a city where 58% of the population do not own a car, and 16% of those who do use it less than once a month.
Palau spear fishermen in a dugout canoe outside Pohnpei’s reef. Photo by Ami Vitale (Taken with instagram)
Energy data startup OPower says that its software and big data tools will be able to help save one terawatt hour worth of energy collectively from U.S. homes by the end of 2012. One terawatt hour (or 1 million megawatt hours) is equivalent to the energy consumed by 100,000 American homes over a year, and is worth a whopping $100 million in savings off of consumer’s utility bills.
Opower is one of the rare startups in the greentech world that hit on a solid software-based idea early on and is now charging ahead and growing at a rapid pace. Founded in 2007, Opower’s smart algorithms collect and crunch utility energy consumption data, analyze it for behavior-changing tidbits, and package the results into a detailed utility bill that can help consumers save around 2 percent on their energy bills. The bills can compare customers to their neighborhoods as a whole (leveraging shame, guilt or the competitive spirit), and recommend tips for saving energy.
Two percent might not sound like a lot, but collectively it’s making a significant dent in U.S. home energy consumption. Already as of April Opower had collectively saved 200 gigawatt hours of energy since it started, which is enough energy to power the Empire State Building for three-and-a-half years or annual energy consumption of the entire country of Cambodia. (Opower has a nifty energy savings ticker on its new website). As of today, the company is about a third of the way to its one terawatt hour by 2012 goal.
Imbricated Turtle in Desroches Island by Mathilde Guillemot
Central New York. Tinker Falls. June 7th, 2011.