August 13th, 2020 by Jacek Fior
Before I even start, here is a disclaimer: this article is biased and reflects a deeply patriotic obligation to promote Polish brands. 🙂 And, yes, it is about Paris, France, while reporting from our Taycan e-Rally.
I have done it before — I mean, being biased — and whenever there is a chance, I highlight our local successes, like here when talking about Polish adventurers or here when I showed the city of Wrocław as a leader in e-mobility. Be advised, though, my local patriotism doesn’t mean I’m blind to our climate shame and sins, and I write, talk, and campaign about it whenever I can. Anyway, having completed this sort of coming out, let’s go back to Paris and check on the WysokieNapiecie.pl team.
Anybody who follows news from the capital of France will know how the city has been transforming in recent years, and particularly in recent COVID months, in terms of bicycle transportation, and that is bound to be Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s lasting legacy. Not only that, though, as another huge project aimed at reducing the city’s CO2 emissions and improving the quality of life is to replace the fleet of city buses with electric ones. It’s not Shenzhen, with its 16,000+ units, but there are about 5,000 city buses in Paris and half of them are planned to be electric by 2025, which is truly quite impressive. What about the other half? These will use biogas, meaning the whole fleet of city buses in Paris will be eco-friendly soon.
Since we had reached out to RATP (a state-owned public transport operator in Paris) before our rally began, we had an appointment with Vincent Grasset, Fleet Maintenance Manager at Montrouge Bus Depot. The team was surprised to drive into the center of the metropolis, with is narrow road lanes, where they wouldn’t expect to find a base for 200 buses. There it was, however, underground a large apartment block and housing about 100 buses, all ready to go on their daily routes, and many empty spots ready to welcome those in service at the moment. All around, there were DC fast chargers, and I’m happy to report that many of them came from the Polish company Ekoenergetyka. You may remember the company from what we have called “the best charging station in Europe,” branded as Ekoen, which I mentioned in episode one of the Taycan adventure. It’s not Apple (yet), but it started in a garage only 12 years ago to grow to be one of the leading suppliers of chargers for buses globally, competing with such giants as ABB. Why not!
When I was inviting Elon Musk to build his European Gigafactory in Poland some time ago, this was exactly the kind of engineering and entrepreneurial spirit I had in mind, which I believed would make Tesla successful here. Though, I know we would not match German political skill and strength to make it happen in such a short time, not in today’s political climate in Poland, unfortunately.
Returning to the Montrouge Bus Depot and Paris, no wonder it is one of the first two bases to include electric buses, as it offers its services in the very center of Paris, where pollution desperately needs to be cut.
I can’t help but report that some of these buses come from Solaris, a Polish bus manufacturer that is a pioneer in electric vehicles and delivering them globally. (Editor’s note: Serendipitously, we just published “Over 150 Solaris Electric Buses Now In Poland” earlier today. Pure coincidence.)
Looking at it with a little perspective, you quickly notice it is not a single-case effort to show you are “green,” but part of a global plan to decarbonize transport in the city of Paris and redefine transportation as we know it. Adding to the bike lane revolution and the electric bus fleet, Paris is also focusing on electric carsharing. We all remember Autolib, the largest electric carsharing service on earth, and much has been written on why it eventually failed. However, the gap after Bollore’s BlueCar disappeared from the streets of Paris was quickly filled by global players — Daimler and BMW’s ShareNow/Car2Go with Smarts, Renault’s Zity with ZOEs, and PSA’s Free2Move with the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero.
WysokieNapiecie.pl tested Autolib a few years ago and wanted to compare the experience with all the new players on the Paris market. The guys faced some “charger” problems, as Car2Go refused to register Polish folks (banditos!) and Zity failed to start on the phone. What a bummer! Anyway, Free2Move had to suffice. The obvious differences when comparing to Autolib was the model of operation — free floating as opposed to station based. This is a huge difference from the clients’ point of view. The fees looked friendlier as well — €0.39/minute, €9/hour, and €60/day — and you can start using any available car via the app. What a change from the RFID cards introduced by Autolib, which could only be purchased in selected Kiosks!
What hasn’t changed, on the other hand, is the poor quality of the cars (they’re simply dated and still use an ignition key), and the way they are treated (or mistreated) by Parisians. Carsharing has never been an easy business to run, but I personally keep my fingers crossed for the systems to succeed. In the long run, they will be an important puzzle in the MaaS approach globally.
Biased as it was, I did my best to not overdo the Polish contribution to current e-mobility success in Paris.
A short summary of the Taycan e-Rally from Poland to Cabo da Roca and back will follow soon.
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