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Electric carshare program meets multiple needs

As the Biden administration invests in transportation electrification, the Twin Cities’ electric carshare program serves as a model for supporting the electric vehicle transition in a way that delivers affordable access to EVs for more people.

Transportation for America is part of the Coalition Helping America Rebuild and Go Electric (CHARGE). Learn about the coalition’s priorities here.

Photo provided by East Metro Strong.

With continued federal incentives for electric vehicles and funding to build out the charger network, you would think this would be the perfect time to buy an electric car. However, pandemic-related supply chain challenges and inflation have driven the cost of new and used cars higher than ever. For many people, especially those in communities that have already historically experienced disinvestment, this presents yet another barrier to benefiting from federal investment in electric transportation.

The Twin Cities have found a way around this problem. It’s called Evie Carshare.

Evie is a point-to-point carshare program in Minneapolis and Saint Paul powered by renewable electricity. It’s a public-private partnership between the two cities, HOURCAR, Xcel Energy, East Metro Strong, and the American Lung Association. Evie currently has a fleet of 101 electric vehicles and a network of 71 charging stations and is still growing. It launched in February before funding started flowing from the 2021 infrastructure law.

The Evie Carshare program kills way more than two birds with one stone. Unlike programs that just invest in charging infrastructure or EV purchase incentives, this program addresses some of the fundamental challenges with the transition to electric vehicles:

Affordability. For people who cannot afford a car, Evie Carshare provides access to a car for those trips that really require one, even if most of the time you get around by transit, walking or biking. That not only benefits folks who cannot afford a car, but provides an option that could make it easier for a household to go car-free or cut down on the number of cars, freeing up income for other things.

The program just released a six-month report showing strong usage as the system grows. In its first six months, Evie Carshare has supported over 24 thousand trips, saving an estimated $2.5 million for users. It’s estimated that 33 percent of those savings were attributable to very low income households.

“At a time of high car and gas prices, people need options. This strong usage shows Evie Carshare is meeting a need,” said Will Schroeer, executive director of the public-private partnership East Metro Strong, a T4America member.

Supporting other modes of travel. We know that electrifying transportation is essential but insufficient to meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets. Transportation options that reduce the need to drive help us get there and also deliver equity, health, and economic benefits. On a macro-level, carshare can support vibrant, walkable cities. Studies estimate that a shared car replaces 5 to 15 personally owned vehicles. That means fewer parking lots and fewer cars on the road, leaving more space for homes, parks, and infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit. According to the six-month report, Evie Carshare has already cut an estimated 741 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Staying charged. Evie Carshare is a hybrid station-based free-floating service with charging stations located across the service area. Carshare users can start and end a trip anywhere in the 35-square mile service area; plugging the car in at a charging station at the end of your trip earns you credit. Each charging location has spots for carshare vehicles and public charging as well.

The public chargers in the network create yet another benefit: public charging access close to apartment buildings where EV owners may lack access to at-home charging. That’s likely to make EV ownership more feasible for more otherwise gasoline-fueled car drivers, particularly those on more modest incomes. Charging logistics are cited as a key barrier for people not yet committed to purchasing an EV.

As the Biden administration’s Joint Office on Energy and Transportation rolls out $2.5 billion in community charging grants over the next five years, Evie stands out as a model for investing in a ways that can accelerate the EV transition and support the administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to direct 40 percent of the benefits of federal clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.

If you live in the Twin Cities and you are thinking of buying an EV for your next car, Evie provides an opportunity to try them out and see how you like them. Surveys show that the more experience someone has with EVs, the more likely they are to choose an EV for their next vehicle purchase. Encouraging people to switch over to EVs is great. But with a carshare program and quality transit, biking, and walking options, many Evie users may learn they don’t need to purchase a car after all, which is even better.

Want more resources on how to navigate the electric vehicle transition? Check out our past blogs on this topic.

1 Comment

  1. Cory Pinckard

    1 year ago

    EV’s are a greenwashing consumerist centered, greed based pseudo-solution that also (along with ICE vehicles) destroy the environment by releasing greenhouse gases through resource mining, manufacturing processes pollutants and ultimately going to the landfill in mass droves. The pollution they cause is simply unnecessary as is the amount of urban space squandered on parking and other paved over autocentric wastes. They also perpetuate urban sprawl, redlining, the food deserts that come from that invariably, along with cities that are not navigable as a pedestrian or bicyclist and are, in fact, inhospitable to humanity along with being horrendous towards animals. Isn’t it ironically sad that streets divide us more than connect us and impede us from trying to get to where we’re trying to go? EV’s add to traffic congestion. Commodification of societal necessities and normalization of trying to substitute rampant consumerism where we need standardized, regulated and uniform public utilities doesn’t work.

    Putting the financial burden of transportation inefficiently and directly on the individual citizen is simply not wise or fair and hasn’t been the norm for even 80 years. To form the bone structure of walkable places we need to invest in commuter rail that’s properly implemented as it typically is overseas. A commuter rail system is an engineering marvel while buses are just buses. The most reliable predictor of a neighborhood being impoverished is if it has no commuter rail connection. The American people are apathetic through decades of disenfranchisement and a lot of that marginalization (eg Robert Moses’s racist urban renewal) is through divestment of public infrastructure, utilities and programs to help the American people. How many special places were destroyed fated to become mere parking lots? How many lives were wrecked as entire communities and cultural centers of minorities were wiped off the face of the world as though an atomic bomb had been dropped on it in order to force through highway robbery highways were pushed through the wreckage and rubble of razed annihilation that those same victims now in atomized diaspora had to then help subsidize which is often the case with the rapid onslaught and constantly rupturing outbreak of mediocre monstrosities being raised all over the place currently, looming gloomily over neighborhoods they’ve doomed as ugly tombstones in the spaces of what was demolished for them to be erected. We’re past the point of car dominated transportation being anything better than a tragic hindrance or an outright travesty. Public works materially improving life for the taxpaying citizenry will bolster civic pride.

    Transcontinental High Speed Rail should integrate seamlessly with commuter rail networks so it can evenly function as one cohesive system and this will convert flyover country back into a thriving heartland by functioning as an artery of commute and commerce which will reduce clustering on the coasts. Similarly, wholly integrated circuits of commuter rail blended with interurban routes, light rail lines, street car grids, subways, and even trolleys along with ferries functioning together as a comprehensive series of interwoven systems would prevent people from having to live on top of each other in city centers in order to have quick access to urban cores and downtown areas so this would stimulate our local economies and prevent gentrification from demolishing cherished heirlooms of our historicity, destroying our classic neighborhoods, shredding the fabric of our communities and toppling our civic landmarks and architectural heirlooms along with other social capital such as venerable culture generating venues.

    Numerous studies show that built environments of homogenously bleak and bland duplitecture dreck made from extremely toxic and highly flammable petrochemicals that profiteering developers push on us for their privatized gains to our public loss for the riches of themselves and price gouging corporate slumlords not only cause homelessness from being financially inaccessible to most Americans, but also cause depression from creating such a devastatingly sterile, cold, unloving urban habitat that’s too congested and overcrowded to work properly as a correctly engineered built environment. Our roadways are overcrowded and no amount of widening them and adding lanes will do anything to help it because it just leads to induced demand that inevitably grinds to a halt at snags and bottlenecks down the road. Shouldn’t American cities be thriving centers of culture and character rather than austere and chintzy morasses of mediocrity?

    I believe that we can design the cities of our nation to reflect a future that embraces humanity and that we also must for America to have any sort of a bright future ahead of it. Right now we are mired in the destruction of our cities from the inward attacking neocolonial oppressors who weaponize their clout of wealth against the nation for their own off-shore un-American gains of privileged, parasitic, private profits. This greed fueled anti-social exploitation is present day feudalism driving us into another gilded age. Tons of new brutalist “luxury living” housing units remain empty serving only as financial assets in investment portfolios of hedge fund and permanent capital firm cretins sheltering dubiously acquired wealth instead of as direly needed shelter for humans. We deserve a landscape we can be proud of and country should come first before corporate looting and exploitation. Legacies are important and live on forever.

    With space opened up in our cities we could rebuild beloved structures gone from economic and environmental disaster utilizing new technologies such as hempcrete and 3-D printing. We could create vertical agriculture farms etc. on spots currently now just serving as paved over squares and nothing more. We can extend democracy into offering the taxpayer residents democratic say in what their city consists of, how it looks and how it operates promoting civic engagement and participation.