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Bluecity to spread electric fleet across London

Date: 06 November 2017   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Innovative electric car-sharing service Bluecity is aiming to more than double its fleet by early next year, expanding from 100 to more than 200 cars in London. 

The expansion will see the service, owned by French infrastructure giant Bollore, upping its operations to potentially target all 32 boroughs in the hopes that the city will fully adopt its service. 

Christophe Arnaud, managing director of Bluecity announced the plans for expansion to BusinessCar when we met him in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to test the service for ourselves.

"We currently operate in 18 London boroughs, making us the biggest car share in London already, but we're looking to grow even more and increase that even further," he said. "We have 100 cars on the fleet in the city now, and we know there's potential to increase that, because of the interest we've had in the service from Londoners."

However, one challenge Bluecity faces in London is waiting for each individual council to approve the service before it can go ahead and build the bays and chargers that enable the service to operate.   

"Bluecity can help transform London by dramatically reducing air pollution, congestion and the number of cars on the road in the city, but first we need approval from the councils before we can make these changes to the city," Arnaud explained. 

Bluecity has 100 chargers in Wandsworth and 50 in Hounslow, and is currently rolling out in Brent and Barnet, as well as other areas. 

"It very much depends on the appetite of the local authority as to whether we will launch there, as we need dedicated EV  parking bays and regulations enforced," says Arnaud. "It has been a bit of a struggle, London, and is forcing us to move forward and contract borough by borough."

The service, which prides itself on being efficient through its 100% electric fleet as well as its connectivity, allows users to log in to a smartphone app or the navigation system in the car. They can see in real time if there is a free space and charger for the car, allowing them to reserve it so that it will still be free when they arrive. 

Interestingly, the company is unusual because it makes its own electric cars and batteries. Parent company Bollore also runs the Source London network of EV charging points. 

Arnaud likened the point-to-point car club to that of the 'Boris Bike' scheme, where users can reserve a car via a dedicated app, drive across London and end the rental by parking the car at a recharging station. "The cars are also compact and built by the company specifically for sharing," he said. "It's not really like a normal car; it's a bit more robust and not luxurious. It's made to be used over and over, and be affordable and practical for city driving."

Blue City Fovea 086

To reach its target audience, Bluecity has not only made the service green, but cheap and efficient, too. "More people want cleaner modes of transport, and can't afford to buy an EV or a car. We are making our service cheap at 17p a mile and efficient, and they're close to tube and train stations," he says. "Users can start the rental in their chosen boroughs and end in any other borough. At the moment, our team relocate the cars, but we want to reach a point where we don't need to do that because the service will be so popular."

The expansion marks the next step in the company's UK plans, after announcing a partnership with Gatwick Airport in October 2016. When launched, passengers will be able to collect vehicles from Gatwick and drop them off at dedicated charging points across the capital.

"Our service gives additional sustainable transport choices to 42 million passengers now travelling through Gatwick each year, plus more than 21,000 people employed across the airport campus. We're sure it will be very popular," Arnaud added.