Indianapolis, often associated with the roar of race cars, could be getting quieter, as a fleet of nearly silent electric cars rolls across city streets.

The home of the Brickyard has launched the first electric car-sharing service in the United States. The BlueIndy program is said to be saving the city and its residents as much as 500,000 gallons of gas a year, reducing car ownership–related costs for residents and lessening their addiction to fossil fuel-powered cars.

In less than a year, more than 2,100 Indy residents have become subscribers in the car-sharing program. As of the summer of 2016, the electric fleet has grown to 272 cars in operation and 75 pickup and drop-off sites, each with five charging stations. More sites are under construction; the program's goal is a 500-car fleet and 200 stations. (Indianapolis is also converting its nonemergency fleet vehicles to electric and hybrid.)

Car-sharing services such as BlueIndy are becoming more common. One car-sharing service, Car2Go, which uses gas-powered vehicles, is reducing pollution as a result of it leading to less cars being on the road. Car2Go is owned by Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and boasts more than 1,000,000 members worldwide. The University of California-Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center recently revealed that for every Car2Go in use, seven to 11 fewer personally owned cars were on the road; the study found that Car2Go members sold one to three personal vehicles each after joining the service.

BlueIndy car-sharing vehicle
The BlueIndy cars were developed in conjunction with automotive-design firm Pininfarina.

How BlueIndy Works

To become a BlueIndy subscriber, Indianapolis residents who hold a current driver’s license and have a credit card can sign up at one of six BlueIndy kiosks in downtown Indianapolis or on the BlueIndy website. After they receive a membership card, drivers can scan their card at a station and drive away. They can make reservations through the program website or a BlueIndy smartphone app; they can also secure parking reservations. The cars can be returned at any station, making one-way trips a breeze.

Pricing is based on the first 20 minutes of car use and then per minute after. Volume discounts are available, with daily packages starting at $8 for the first 20 minutes and 40 cents per minute after or a yearly package that costs $9.99 a month and $4 for the first 20 miles, and 20 cents per minute after. Student discounts and corporate rates are also available. Considering that most owners do not use their cars more than 90 percent of the time, BlueIndy makes an attractive alternative to expensive ownership costs, such as car insurance, since BlueIndy covers insurance and car maintenance.

The service got its start in Paris when the Bolloré Group started the world’s largest and most successful electric car-sharing service. The organization then followed up with programs in Lyon and Bordeaux, France.

The company developed the cars, called the Bolloré BlueCar, with famed Italian automotive-design firm Pininfarina. The two-door hatchbacks, made in Italy, are four-seaters, have a 160-mile range, and a top speed of 81 mph. The claimed range is better than most EVs, such as the similarly sized Chevrolet Spark EV and Nissan Leaf, and will get drivers across more than enough miles in the larger metropolitan area on a single charge.

The BlueIndy program and the city's adoption of EV and hybrid for nonemergency vehicles will inform other cities’ adoption of similar programs. London and Los Angeles are both planning to add EV car-sharing programs, while Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City are all moving toward adding EVs and hybrids to their municipal fleets.

Learn more about fuel economy and alternative-fuel vehicles.