French billionaire Vincent Bollore is set to introduce an automotive version of London’s “Boris Bikes” short-term bicycle-rental program as he quadruples outlets in the U.K. capital for charging electric vehicles.
IER, the unit of the entrepreneur’s Bollore Group that runs Paris’s Autolib auto-sharing service, will probably invest 100 million pounds ($166 million) in the Source London electric-car charging program that it will begin managing in mid-2014, Bollore said today at a press conference. The network will be expanded to 6,000 battery-charging sites by 2018 from about 1,400 currently, with a car-sharing component eventually to be added, the partners said in a statement.
Autolib was introduced in 2011, the year that Transport for London, which runs the U.K. capital’s subway and bus networks, began operating Source London with back-office help from German engineering company Siemens AG. IER’s Source London investment will probably pay off in six to seven years because of potentially “more complicated” conditions than in Paris such as weather, while Autolib will be profitable in October or November, three years after its startup, Bollore said.
Bollore Group, based in the Paris suburb of Puteaux, has assets in the transport, agriculture, energy and communications industries, including stakes in French advertiser Havas SA and Paris-based phone and entertainment company Vivendi. The company makes the Bollore Bluecar electric vehicle that makes up the Autolib fleet.
Vincent Bollore, the group’s chairman, is the 10th-richest person in France, with an estimated personal fortune of 5.6 billion dollars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A car-sharing program in London would build on the transport agency’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, nicknamed Boris Bikes after Mayor Boris Johnson, which began operating in mid-2010. Serco Group Plc, Britain’s largest government-outsourcing provider, won a two-year contract extension in January to run the bicycle program.
Bollore didn’t outline a time frame or other details for the Source London car-sharing program. In Paris, holders of a 120-euro ($170) annual subscription can rent a Bluecar for 30 minutes for 5.50 euros.
The French manufacturing group remains in talks with Renault SA, Europe’s third-biggest carmaker, on developing electric vehicles, Bollore said at the London press conference today. The chairman said he’s leaving “the door open” to other cooperation with other car producers.