By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) – An electric car sharing scheme being rolled out in London by French firm Bollore is taking longer than expected to set up fully because contract talks with the capital’s local councils are dragging on.
Cedric Bollore, the company’s director of development, said he wanted all of London’s 33 local authorities to reach the same agreement on charge points with the company, which runs electric car sharing schemes, including in many French cities and the United States.
“The boroughs are rather independent in their approach and we absolutely need to have the same contract. We must admit that the discussion, negotiations are going well but are taking a bit more time than we thought,” Bollore told Reuters.
“Probably we will be one year or two years behind but what we will achieve will be what we have planned to achieve.”
Bollore’s Blue Solutions division has previously said it was aiming to put 3,000 electric cars on London’s streets by 2018 but agreement needed on the infrastructure has pushed that back.
Dealing with the capital’s local authorities, which control issues such as street maintenance and parking, and are run by different political parties, has been a problem for others trying to set up carpooling schemes.
Bollore said it had been easier to set up its electric carsharing scheme in other cities such as Paris where the mayor has more power to push boroughs to introduce key infrastructure.
German carmaker Daimler axed its Car2Go operation in 2014 in London after failing to establish a wide network of “free floating” parking spaces where customers could pick up and drop off vehicles across the city.
Six months later, BMW opted to begin its DriveNow scheme in just three adjoining areas of northeast London with both electric and conventional models now in use.
Zipcar, Hertz and Enterprise are among companies also running schemes in parts of the capital.
Facing tougher environmental regulation and growing demand for less polluting cars, automakers are investing heavily in electric vehicles, but many consumers have been deterred by the limited distance they can travel on a single charge.
Less than three percent of the cars bought in Britain last year were alternative fuel models, primarily plug-in hybrids and pure electric models, according to industry data.
Bollore said it has 19 BlueCity electric cars in London at the moment but not all were on the streets as it was finalising some of the technology, and was aiming to have up to 100 by the end of 2016.
It is investing 100 million pounds in the car club and a network of electric charging points known as Source London, which it expects will boost demand over time.
The firm is aiming to have 6,000 charge points in London by the end of the decade, where users pay to charge any car no matter the brand.
“It will probably take something like five, six years before we begin to be really profitable,” Bollore said.
(Editing by David Clarke)