PARIS (Bloomberg) -- The Tesla Model S, a sumptuous, four-door electric sedan with a sticker price of $71,000, has a waiting list that stretches to months. Vincent Bollore can get you behind the wheel of an electric with “far superior” technology this afternoon. For just 20 cents a minute.
Bollore, the French billionaire who is the biggest shareholder of Vivendi, has created Autolib, a car-sharing service in France stocked with hatchbacks called Bluecars. The result is something of an anti-Tesla: bug-like, no-frills electrics rented by the minute, with no big upfront investment for drivers. Tesla Motors Inc., by contrast, is following in the tire tracks of the traditional auto-industry, making vehicles and selling them to individuals.
Aside from bottom-up approach to emission-free transport, the technology that powers the cars through Paris traffic is different. Bollore insists his batteries are more durable and safer -- and that they represent the best path to profit.
“The key element in an electric vehicle isn’t the vehicle, it’s the electrical systems,” said Bollore, 62, who turned his family’s 193-year-old paper-making operation into an $11 billion conglomerate called Groupe Bollore, with stakes in dozens of businesses ranging from shipping to palm oil. “We think that our technology is far superior” to Tesla’s.
After spending three years and 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) developing the cars and batteries used in Paris (as well as Lyon and Bordeaux), Bollore is preparing to take the idea global. First stop: Indianapolis in June, then London later this year. He says he has also applied for a permit in Singapore and is eyeing Los Angeles.