On June 10, 2013 the Mayor of Indianapolis announced an agreement between the city and the Bolloré Group to launch BlueIndy, the largest all-electric carsharing program in the US. Bolloré invested $40 million to launch the program and the system, which in full implementation is planned to feature up to 500 electric vehicles, and 1,200 charging stations at roughly 200 locations. BlueIndy is centered on short, one-way trips, and users reserve both a car at their origin and a parking spot with a charging station near their destination. Membership plans are available on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis.
The BlueIndy carsharing program was launched in Indianapolis in September 2015. As of May 2016, the Blue Indy pilot program had 69 stations operating and still plans to expand to 200 (Tuohy, Indystar). The program has seen initial success, topping 1,000 memberships just four months after opening, but has a long way to go before being profitable and has received pushback from the business community, which feels that the electric vehicles eliminate customer parking spots.
Indianapolis is the only city that has attempted to provide a utility subsidy for carsharing. Implementation of the program hinged on a hard-fought battle for a utility subsidy from Indianapolis Power & Light Co. (IPL). In April of 2014 IPL filed a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to request approval of the electric vehicle sharing program. After initial denial, a settlement agreement was reached on August 21, 2014 between the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), IPL, and the City of Indianapolis to allow BlueIndy’s implementation plan to move forward with enhanced consumer protections.
The initial request sought $16 million in ratepayer funds for electric line extensions and the installation of charging stations. The proposal was estimated to raise a typical residential customer’s bill (for 1,000 kilowatt hours) by 44 cents per month. The settlement agreement reduced the estimated impact to 28 cents per month. IPL has a profit sharing agreement with BlueIndy and the City, and any funds that it receives will be used only for rate mitigation. Even with the revised agreement, some citizens and officials have been critical of IPL’s rate increase to fund electric vehicle infrastructure.
The utility subsidy aside, adding carshare to the suite of transportation options available to residents of Indianapolis provides them with another opportunity to reduce their household transportation costs. BlueIndy allows downtown workers, residents, and visitors to get around town in a car without owning one. The business side of the carshare program helps city government and participating companies reduce their fleet and the associated costs. In addition to cost savings, other benefits of carsharing include:
Although Indianapolis is the first to provide a utility subsidy, other cities and government agencies have provided subsidies for carsharing. These subsidies include free parking, marketing assistance and risk sharing assistance.