Autobleue Share Cars

TheL'Auto Bleue Nice little winged Autobleue self-service share cars are a fantastic service for anyone who needs an occasional car and doesn’t want to go through the hassle or expense of doing a full-on car rental.  Once you sign up you just click and go, and there are over 200 cars waiting for you 24/7 at 70 stations conveniently dotted all over town.

Step-by-step instructions are below, but first, here are my…

Top-ten Favorite Things about the Autobleue

Anyone that has a driver’s licence from anywhere can sign up, even tourists; you don’t have to live here or even have a French bank account.  (There is, however, one huge exception that affects the majority of Americans … see the bottom of this post for the crazy explanation!)

Easier to use than the Velos.   Reserve a car online with one click, one call, or with your cell if you’re out and about, then just go and get it.   Easier than Nice’s Velo Bleu self-serve bicycles because you don’t always know if one will be there waiting for you. The Zen cars must be returned to the same spot, but unlike the bikes, at least this guarantees that there will be a spot to return it.

One-way trips are now possible with the new Flex option, where you can take a car from one station and leave it at another.

Mini-trucks for the same price!  The cars are mostly little two-doors, but there are also small four-doors and mini-vans, and also some trucks and utility vehicles available for moving day, furniture shopping, trips to the plant store or DIY shopping…

No minimum purchase or commitment.   After the 25€ sign up fee (which is a one-time fee), you can use the cars as much or as little as you want.

Not expensive.   In general, figure around 8.50€ an hour

Everything is included.  The rental fee includes insurance and 24-hour roadside assistance, and your liability is limited to a paltry 300€.

No gas!   A money-saver, true, but also a major hassle-saver as you can now dispense with that last-minute gas station top-off session before returning the rental car.   And no more petrol-stinking fingers.

Easy on the nerves.  Electric cars are silent… which frankly takes some getting used to!  Thankfully, these have radios.

And the final cherry sur le gateau for those of us that are chronically lost:  the cars have GPS, and in English!

How to Sign Up for the Autobleue

To sign up and get your access badge, just go to the Lignes d’Azur boutique at 17 Avenue Thiers, across from the train station, with your passport, drivers license and credit card. The sign up can also be done online, but then you have to wait for your badge to arrive in the mail.

After signing up, paying the 25€ registration fee, giving the 300€ credit card guarantee, and setting up a payment method, they’ll hand you your badge, and from then on the electric cars can be reserved with a click or a call … and with a wave of your badge, off you go!

Cost to Rent an Autobleue

The basic rate (ZEN) is 8.50€ an hour, but there is also a monthly rate that brings the cost down to 5€ an hour.  Plus, you don’t pay for gas or parking… each station has two extra parking places for electric cars and the City is continually expanding this free-parking-for-electric-cars program.   This type of rental is called ‘ZEN’ because you can reserve ahead of time, you know your call will be waiting for you, and you know you will have a parking place when you return because each car has its own dedicated parking space.  The catch is that it has to be returned to the same station that you picked it up from.

There is now a new FLEX car option, which is more expensive, but frees you from having to return the car to the same station.  With FLEX, you can reserve only 20 minutes in advance, or just take the car without a reservation, and you return it to any other station within Nice, Cagnes-sur-mer and Saint Laurent; and if there is no parking spot available at the station, you just park it as close as possible.   The charge for this one-way type of rental is 30 cents a minute, which works out to 6€ for 20 minutes or 18€ for an hour. They also have a monthly rate which brings it down to 20 cents a minute, or 12€/hour.

How far can you go with an Autobleue?

The cars can go 100km before a recharge which limits you to a 50km radius to be able to get there and back, so roughly Nice-Ventimiglia or Nice-St Raphael.  You are allowed to take the cars into Italy, by the way.

Image illustrative de l'article Auto BleueHow to pick up the car

When you reserve a car you choose the type of car, the pick up location, and how long you want it for, and then 30 minutes before your rental they send you a text message with the licence plate number and parking space.

When you arrive to pick up your car, just wave your badge over the charging post, which pops open, so you can unplug the car and stow the plug in the post.

Next wave your badge over the blinking light in the car window, and the car unlocks.

Inside the car you enter your 4-digit code on the little screen and confirm that the car is clean and undamaged inside and out.

Now turn the key (remember, the car is silent so there is no start-up motor varoom) and hit the gas and away you go!  The cars are all automatic transmission, not stick shift.

As you pull out, notice if your parking spot has a barrier… if so, there will be a little beeper-like device attached to the dashboard, which when clicked will raise and lower the parking barrier to prevent other cars from nicking your Autobleue’s coveted spot!

Driving tips

The cars are silent, which means that no one can hear you coming, so be hyper-vigilant for unsuspecting pedestrians.

The key is attached to the car, so if you stop off somewhere, always lock the car by waving your badge over the blinking light in the window, otherwise anyone could jump in and drive off with your car!

If the car won’t lock, it is probably because it is still (silently) running! When you stop, you need to put the car in ‘park’ and turn the key all the way to ‘off”.

Click here for more general trips for Driving in Nice.

Returning the car

You can click the GPS screen ‘return to station’ and it will guide you back home.

When you arrive, be sure to turn the key all the way to off.  The screen will ask you if there is any damage, and you answer ‘no’.

Underneath the dash, on the left, there is a lever to pull to open the little charging door, and you’ll hear a click when it opens.

Now go wave your badge over the charging post, pull out the cord and plug the car in.

Finally, check that you have not left anything in the car, shut the door and wave your badge over the blinking light in the window to lock it.  That’s it!

Here’s the Autobleue website in (mostly) English.


Americans in Nice Singing the Blues… the Autobleues

Autobleue says no to AmericansOnly Americans coming from the following 18 States that have a reciprocal driver’s license agreement with France can sign up for the Autobleues:

Delaware – Maryland – Ohio – Pennsylvanie – Virginie – Caroline du Sud – Massachusetts – New Hampshire – Illinois – Iowa – Michigan – Wisconsin – Arkansas – Oklahoma – Texas – Colorado – Floride – Connecticut

This weird rule stems from a concern over teenage drivers; in France the minimum driving age is 18, so they only make reciprocal agreements with places that have the same age minimum… which is all well and good if the driver in question is underage, but if you are a 40-year-old and have been driving for 24 years, they still won’t let you have a French license or drive an Autobleue.   It’s not only Americans; a few other countries have the same situation.  All EU countries are golden (so Brits: you’re in), but anyone from a non-EU country should check this list to see if you get to be part of the in-crowd as well.

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Photo credit: Autobleue by Kevin B, licenced under creative commons

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