Electric Car-Sharing Service Makes U.S. Debut at Indianapolis Int’l

Victoria Soukup
Published in: 

Passengers at Indianapolis International (IND) will soon have a new and greener option for getting to and from the airport: an all-electric car-sharing program.

BlueIndy, which launched local service in September, is slated to open a 20-car station in the airport’s parking garage later this month. The new facility will allow arriving passengers to pick up cars at the airport and drop them off at stations near their destinations. Departing passengers will be able to pick up vehicles at stations throughout the Indianapolis metro area and return them to the new station at IND. 

Project: Charging/Parking Station for Electric Car-Sharing Program
Location: Indianapolis Int’l Airport Parking Garage
Car-Sharing Service: BlueIndy
Parent Company: Bolloré Group
Bolloré’s Total Local Investment: >$40 million
Airport Station Capacity: 20 vehicles
Construction: 8-10 weeks
Electrical Contractor: Miller-Eads Co.
Unique Strategy: X-raying concrete to determine location of post-tension concrete rebar
Of Note: BlueIndy is first all-electric car-sharing service in the U.S.

While many U.S. cities have vehicle-sharing services (Zipcar, etc.), Indianapolis is the first to offer one with an all-electric fleet. As such, BlueIndy provides drivers with an option that produces no carbon emissions; and the airport plays an important role in the initiative.

“As a key economic driver in our city, IND is always excited to embrace and take part in innovative projects, especially when it benefits the communities we serve,” explains Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. “This exciting partnership with BlueIndy will allow us to provide a new transportation option to our customers while doing so in a sustainable and economical way.”

The airport’s partnership with BlueIndy is the latest in a string of other environmental accomplishments. IND was the first U.S. airport to win Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for an entire terminal campus. And its solar array is considered to be the largest airport-based solar farm in the world. (That project recently won IND a 2015 sustainability award from the city.)

Building the new station at IND follows other startup investments for BlueIndy’s French parent company, Bolloré Group. To date, the company has reportedly spent $40 million establishing service in Indianapolis. In late 2015, BlueIndy had 200 vehicles and more than 70 charging stations throughout the city. Officials expect to expand coverage to have 500 vehicles and 200 charging stations in place later this year.

Bolloré Group selected Indianapolis as the first U.S. city for its Bluecar electric vehicle service because of the city’s “EV vision” and ongoing efforts to make the community more attractive to live and work, explains BlueIndy General Manager Scott Prince. “We have more than 60,000 students in the Indianapolis area. And the students and millennials want programs such as BlueIndy,” says Prince. “It helps transform the downtown to a place that can attract and retain talent and increases the overall value factor of making Indianapolis a great place to live and work.”

Creating an airport station was a pivotal move for BlueIndy. “IND is a very forward-thinking airport,” Prince comments, noting that the new ground transportation service provides airline travelers with a low-cost way to get anywhere in Marion County. “It was an obvious part of the equation.”

Customers who rent BlueIndy’s electric cars can purchase daily, weekly, monthly or yearly memberships online or at enrollment kiosks throughout the city. The enrollment kiosk at the airport is located on the 3rd floor of the parking garage, near the terminal entrance and the garage’s self-service pay stations. The cost of BlueIndy memberships range from $9.99 per week to $19.99 per month; additional usage fees range from 20 to 35 cents per minute.

Powered by Lithium Metal Polymer batteries developed by Bolloré, BlueIndy vehicles have a range of up to 120 miles when fully charged. Each can accommodate four passengers, or users can fold down the back seats to carry large luggage or items such as golf clubs.  

From Europe to Indy
“Based on our experience in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon, we expect the average car-sharing transaction to be about 20 minutes,” reports Cédric Bolloré, the company’s vice president of Development. “Indianapolis will benefit from technology and processes proven in Paris for the last four years. Now Indy will be the model for North America.”

In Paris, the company’s brand is known as Autolib’ — and it’s the largest electric vehicle-sharing program in the world. 

At IND, the decision to locate BlueIndy vehicles on the 5th floor of the parking garage was a strategic move for the airport. With car rental operations positioned on the first floor, and floors two through four designated for customer self-parking, authority officials had to consider and balance multiple interests. They wanted to remain sensitive to travelers by continuing to offer them convenient parking. And they certainly didn’t want to hamper the operation of existing car rental companies and taxi operators that service the airport.  

In addition to representing a new form of direct competition for rental agencies based at IND, BlueIndy is also an indirect competitor. Companies such as Hertz and Enterprise have entered the car-sharing sector in other markets; and Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group. Other car-sharing services such as Getaround and Turo are taking a page from the Uber playbook and connecting rental customers with private vehicle owners.  

Looking Through Concrete 
Adding facilities for BlueIndy at IND required ingenuity from Miller-Eads Co., the Indianapolis firm hired to install the new station. Although each of its four charging stations can accommodate five cars, the company designed and wired the electric system to provide up to 50 simultaneous charges.  

“Being in a parking garage, there weren’t a lot of places we could draw power from,” explains Brian Rust, Miller-Eads’ project manager. “The challenge was to go down to a main electrical room, which was on the first floor and more than 1,000 feet away. It was quite far to run additional conduit.”

Crews connected service from the first floor to the fourth floor, where they installed a new transformer and panel board. From there, they subsequently ran service to the new charging stations on the fifth floor. 
The installation also required workers to X-ray 1,500 square feet of the parking garage to ensure that vertical drilling did not strike post-tension concrete rebar embedded in the concrete. The company set aside a full week on the schedule for the vital precautionary measure.

“We ran the potential of hitting one of the cables, so we had to X-ray every little thing,” Rust explains. It took crews anywhere from five to 20 minutes to X-ray a single 2-by-2-foot area, depending on how much rebar it contained.   

To save money, the team employed a technique Bolloré used at one of its parking garages in Paris. Instead of drilling through concrete on the top floor, crews installed a 20-foot long, 3-foot wide metal trough to protect electrical cables.  

“It’s like a metal sidewalk that equipment can sit on and cables can pass through underneath,” Rust notes. “This way, we only have three or four holes that we have to core instead of almost 100 holes. It speeds up the process and keeps the costs lower, because otherwise we’d be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars X-raying the top floor concrete and coring it all.”

Right at Home
In addition to being compatible with IND’s other environmental initiatives, BlueIndy complements the city’s long-term public transit strategy, which includes expanding bus service and adding more bicycle lanes. Electric vehicle service also dovetails with other green municipal efforts. 

In 2008, former Mayor Gregory Ballard created the city’s first Office of Sustainability. Four years later, he signed an executive order that made Indianapolis the first major U.S. city to commit to converting its entire fleet (except police vehicles) to electric or plug-in hybrid models.

“Indianapolis is home to a growing tech sector, arts and cultural attractions, first-rate medical and educational institutions, and thriving neighborhoods,” says Ballard, who did not run for reelection in November. “I’ve been delighted to welcome BlueIndy as a clean, affordable transit option to help connect visitors and residents with all that Indy 
has to offer.”

Passenger Transport

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