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BlueLA is the new car in town — it's electric and you can rent it by the minute




Blue LA is a new car share that rents all-electric cars by the minute.
Blue LA is a new car share that rents all-electric cars by the minute.
Nico Vougas

Christophe Arnaud is showing off a new car debuting in LA this week. It's designed by PininFarina -- an Italian company better known for its work with Ferrari – not that you'd ever confuse the two.
 
"As you can see, it's a small urban car, but it's a four seater with a little trunk," Arnaud said.
 
And it's all electric. It's called a Blue car, but it isn't for sale. Starting Friday, 25 of them will be available to rent as part of a new car-share operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in partnership with Arnaud's company in France – Blue Solutions. By the end of the year there will be 100 vehicles.

Each electric car in the Blue LA car share program has its own dedicated charger.
Each electric car in the Blue LA car share program has its own dedicated charger.
Nico Vougas

 
The service is Blue LA, and the cars will be rented out of 40 different locations, including Los Angeles City College, which has five contiguous on-street parking spaces, each with its own charger.
 
It's part of the sustainable city program Mayor Eric Garcetti announced three years ago, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing mobility options for Angelenos, especially those living in disadvantaged communities that are more exposed to car and truck emissions.
 
Places like downtown LA, Macarthur Park, Pico Union, Koreatown, Boyle Heights and Echo Park -- they're all getting Blue LA hubs, funded in part with cap-and-trade monies from the California Air Resources Board.
 
There are three price points, according to Marcel Porras. He's chief sustainability officer for LA's Department of Transportation, which oversees Blue LA.
 
1. Low income: If you qualify, it's 15 cents per minute plus a $1 monthly membership fee.
 
2. Regular members: It's 20 cents per minute plus a $5 monthly membership fee.

3. Walk-up service: Accessible with a credit card, it costs 40 cents per minute, without a monthly membership.
 
The price includes parking, insurance and fuel.

Blue LA might be the newest – and greenest – car share in LA but it is not the first. ZipCar and General Motors' Maven both offer similar services that let drivers rent cars by the hour or the day for a fee that usually starts at about $10. Turo and Getaround are the same thing, only the rentals are peer to peer.

What's different about BlueLA is that it charges by the minute because "In some instances your trip might only be 15 minutes," said LADOT's Porras.
 
Because there are multiple hubs, renters can pick up the car from one place and drop it off at another with a guaranteed parking spot wherever they leave it.
 
How it works:
 
- Sign up for the service through the Blue LA app, and within a couple days you'll get a tap card that unlocks an available vehicle.
 
- Touch that card to the driver's side window to unlock the door.
 
- Unplug the charging cable.
 
- Hop in.
 
- The key is inside, attached to the car. And then you drive away…
 
Designed as affordable, nonpolluting mobility for people who don't own a car or who need to fill in the gaps of public transit, Blue LA is likely to expand quickly. Next year, the number of cars and locations could double. In Paris, where Blue Solutions has been operating a car share since 2011, the service now has 200,000 members and has reduced the number of privately operated vehicles by 40,000.
 
But an EV sharing service could be a tougher sell here in car-centric Los Angeles.
 
April Song is a student at LA City College, the location of one of the new Blue LA hubs. Before she had a car, she dabbled with something similar - Zip Car.
 
"I just used that service instead of taking an Uber because that was more efficient," she said.
 
Now she drives a Hyundai Sonata.
 
"I can use my car to commute and go to places, but if you're using the car sharing service… you'd have to check out a car for hours per day, and that kind of piles up, you know?"
 
It will take time to pry the cold, hard steering wheels of privately owned vehicles out of Angelenos' hands, but Blue LA is a step.
 
As transportation technology continues to explode, we see this as fitting into that whole eco system of ride share, bike share, electric scooter share, taxis," Porras said.

LA's all-electric car share service, Blue LA, goes lives at 1 p.m. Friday.