Negative charge for French electric car scheme: pedestrian run down

Updated: 

Within hours of the main phase of Paris's revolutionary Autolib electric vehicle scheme starting, a pedestrian was run over by one of its cars.

It allegedly happened because the female victim didn't hear the silent car coming towards her, and stepped out in front of it. She was taken to hospital with bruises and pains in her hips and shoulder, but wasn't seriously injured.

Bertrand Delanoe, Mayor of France and a key figure in instigating the scheme, has already gone into damage limitation mode, claiming that there is no evidence to suggest the accident happened because of the car's silence.

The unfortunate victim was hit on Rue Taine, a street in the busy 12th Arrondissement of Paris.

The Autolib scheme was officially launched in October with a handful of cars, aimed at reducing noise pollution in Paris as well as CO2 emissions. It follows Paris's pioneering Velib bike rental service, giving Parisians short term, affordable access to an electric car for city use.

It's the largest electric vehicle rental scheme of its type, with 250 cars hitting the streets on Monday, and 2,000 planned before the turn of 2014. There are currently 33 charging stations available, with subscribers paying four to eight euros for half an hour with a car.

There have long been concerns about the pedestrian safety impact of electric cars, which are powered by silent electric motors running on battery power. While the internal combustion engine of a traditional car isn't the only outlet for noise - tyre roar, for example, makes up a significant proportion - it is instantly recognisable to pedestrians.

For that reason, some car manufacturers are working on noise emulation technology for electric cars. Lotus has developed a system, though its has more to do with recreating the noise of a big petrol engine than pedestrian safety. And Nissan developed one for the Leaf...though it was banned in the UK, oddly enough.

The UK doesn't have an electric car sharing scheme like Paris's, though in May this year Boris Johnson launched a charging network for London-based electric car owners. For a £100 annual fee, drivers can charge their cars at any one of the installed charging points; Boris plans to have 1,300 in place by this time next year.