It always seemed unlikely, but the BlueIndy electric-car sharing program is getting closer to its rollout in the Midwestern city of Indianapolis, Indiana.
The French-made Bollore BlueCar electric two-seaters are closer to arriving, and groups of Level 2 charging stations are popping up at curbsides all over the central city.
And that has led to growing opposition from local businesses over that most precious (and contested) of American commodities: parking.
DON'T MISS: Indianapolis Electric-Car Sharing: We Drive BlueIndy's BlueCar (May 2014)
As detailed in a long piece in the Indianapolis Star this weekend, now that the charging stations have been installed along downtown curbs--in groups of five--local businesses fear they will lose customers who can't conveniently park close to their storefronts.
It's a similar battle to that waged last year in New York City, when the CitiBike bike-sharing program installed racks for dozens of bicycles along dedicated curbsides, eliminating hundreds of parking spots in the crowded city.
CitiBike NYC racks in Manhattan, by Margaret Bedore (CC 3.0)
In New York, neighbors and residents in adjacent buildings also fought the bike stations for numerous reasons ranging from impeded accessibility for dropoffs and handicapped access (promptly fixed by CitiBike), fear of transient crime (utterly unfounded), and even ugliness (a matter of taste, granted).
In Indianapollis, the concerns of businesses are more focused: If their customers have to park blocks away, they won't patronize the stores.
The city is pressing ahead with the plan, under the leadership of Republican mayor Greg Ballard, a military veteran and strong proponent of electric cars as a way to position his city for the future and reduce imported energy use to boot.
When completed, 500 BlueCars--adapted to meet U.S. regulations from the European version now built--will be positioned at 200 locations in the city, each of which will have five curbside charging stations.
BlueIndy electric-car sharing station and European Bollore BlueCar, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2014
All plug-in electric car drivers will be able to recharge at those stations for a fee, according to the BlueIndy promoters.
Indianapolis itself is putting $6 million into the program, while the privately-held French company Bollore (which also makes the cars) will invest $41 million into the BlueIndy project.
MORE: Bolloré BlueCar: Sharing Paris's Most Popular Electric Car (Oct 2012)
Bollore has thus far sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into its BlueCar electric-car program and Autolib sharing services in Paris, Lyons, and other French cities.
The company was recently awarded a contract to establish a similar service in London, including commonizing the sprawling and disparate networks of charging stations in that city, each of which is subject to different regulations imposed by the local borough council.
Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib' car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012
Green Car Reports drove a prototype BlueIndy car in spring 2014, and found it serviceable if decidedly basic.
That appears to be the right formula for urban French users. BlueIndy's launch will tell us whether it will play in America's Heartland as well.