This week, life-long entrepreneur Vincent Bollore and his BlueCar won the contract to run the Autolib’ scheme of the city of Paris. The story so far is rich of innovation lessons.
Firstly, Autolib’ builds on the success of Velib’ and replicates its business model. Launched in 2007 in Paris and now replicated in many other European cities, Velib’ is a bike rental scheme that allows customers to pick a bike from one of the 1,200 points in Paris (one every 300 meters) and return it to another, without having to worry about parking, maintenance or indeed theft. Autolib’ replicates the scheme with electric cars instead of bikes. In a way, one could argue that, albeit with a different vehicle, the Velib’ programme was a full scale prototype of the Autolib’ one.
Secondly, Autolib’ will leverage its network of designated pick-up and drop-off points across the city to address one of the structural issues of electric cars: the need to recharge the battery. Part of the vehicle drop-off procedure will consist in plugging and locking the car in one of the designated areas, where it will recharge automatically.
Thirdly, Autolib’ reminds us that the most innovative products (see the BlueCar story I posted earlier this year) often come hand-in-hand with new business models. Not for the fun of bolting a new business model on the new product, but because the new business model accelerates the adoption of the new product. In the greater scheme of things, Autolib’ will act as a change agent for the adoption of electric cars by a wider public. By having people experiment for a cheap fee (a monthly subscription of €12 and a rental cost of €5 forthe first 30mins), in conditions (short urban trips) where they won’t worry about battery autonomy, Autolib’ will get people accustomed to driving electric cars. Before long, traditional car rental companies (or maybe new entrants?) will be offering an electric car option to the large segment of their business customers who typically rent a car from their destination airport and drive less than 100km to visit a customer before getting back to the airport.
To paraphrase Derek Sivers, The BlueCar is a lone nut; Autolib’ is the first follower that transforms a lone nut into a leader.
Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.