BlueIndy electric car-sharing: after 9 months, how's it doing?

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BlueIndy Bolloré BlueCar

BlueIndy Bolloré BlueCar

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Car-sharing is growing, in urban areas, among the young and old, and as a way to avoid the expense of a second vehicle.

Sharing electric cars, however, is still in its early days.

But one of the most ambitious experiments is BlueIndy, an electric car-sharing service modeled after the AutoLib system in Paris that's now operating in an American heartland city: Indianapolis.

DON'T MISS: Indianapolis Electric-Car Sharing: We Drive BlueIndy's BlueCar (May 2014)

We've covered BlueIndy a number of times, and actually drove a prototype electric car there in May 2014 during an electric-vehicle conference held in the city.

The service formally launched to paying customers last September, and we recently checked in with Lance Boehmer, its sales and marketing manager, on its progress to date.

The BlueIndy service is a subsidiary of the Bolloré Group, which owns and operates the AutoLib service in Paris and manufactures the BlueCar electric hatchbacks used there.

 

Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib' car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012

Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib' car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012

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It has comprehensively redesigned the BlueCar for use in the U.S., adding airbags (it now has six), air conditioning, sturdier front and rear bumpers, and higher-quality interior fittings.

It's had four "major accidents" in nine months, during which the car's airbags were triggered, with no injuries.

The BlueIndy car is fully compliant with NHTSA safety standards, Boehmer said.

ALSO SEE: BlueIndy Electric Car Sharing Systems Opens Today In Indianapolis (Sep 2015)

BlueIndy's ultimate goal is to have 200 charging sites (which it calls "stations") and 500 cars available throughout the Indianapolis area.

Today, it has 74 sites, each with five charging-station cords, and 230 cars in its fleet, with a further 25 stations now under construction

As of last Friday, it had 2,100 registered members who had taken 21,500 separate trips over the past nine months.

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

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Of those, 70 percent have purchased an annual membership and the other 30 percent use the service monthly or less—frequently to get to and from the Indianapolis airport.

They split almost equally by gender (55 percent male, 45 percent female) and their average age is 42.

Boehmer said usage patterns break into roughly three groups.

CHECK OUT: Solid-State Batteries Already Powering Electric Cars: BlueCars, In Fact

First are service workers, often being paid minimum wage, for whom the car provides added economic opportunity.

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

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They can take on additional work, he said, without having to rely either on catching rides with friends or using public transport.

Then come couples who have sold a second vehicle and use BlueIndy cars to fill in for local journeys.

Finally come "mid- to low-level management users" whose use varies depending on need.

Expansion plans include the company's partnership with the local transit system, IndyGo.

BlueIndy cars are available at the system's brand-new downtown transit center, opened just this week, and the two entities are partnering on station placement so the electric-car users can connect directly to and from public transit.

Overall, said Boehmer, "We're on track" and largely where the system expected to be at this point after its launch.

Indianapolis is "the showcase city" for the Bolloré Group, and the company doesn't intend it to reap "significant profits" until the seventh or eighth year of operation.

BlueIndy fees are $9.99 per month for a one-year membership, plus 20 cents per mile.

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014

Enlarge Photo

The system is just adding a new Youth and Student membership level, for just $30 a year and 15 cents a mile.

With an Indiana University campus downtown, the potential market there should be strong.

Perhaps, as they say about New York City, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

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