The city of Sacramento, California, has plans to become a hub for electric carsharing thanks to funding provided by Electrify America. That’s the group created to distribute the billions of dollars Volkswagen agreed to pay to settle civil and criminal charges arising from its diesel cheating scheme. The Sacramento Bee reports the city expects up to 400 electric cars to be available for rent within the city by the spring of next year.
Sacramento was the first US city selected to receive funding from Electrify America. In addition to funding the electric carsharing program, the money will be used for other zero emissions transportation programs such as installing EV charging stations around the city and to operate a fleet of all-electric buses between UC Davis and the downtown area.
“We’re looking for new, creative solutions in mobility,” Sacramento’s sustainability program manager Jennifer Venema says. “We have studies showing us that each car-share vehicle on the road removes anywhere from eight to 13 personally owned vehicles. This is where the city of Sacramento is truly a test bed. We’ll see what sticks and what works. This is really an experimentation phase.”
Jennifer Gress, policy director for mayor Darrell Steinberg, said the project is part of the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offering alternatives to daily use of personal cars. “We’re trying to create a complete mobility system where people can get around the whole city without needing a personal vehicle.”
The first company to bring electric carsharing to Sacramento will be GIG Car Share, which is owned by A3 Ventures, a subsidiary of AAA. It expects to begin operating 260 electric cars — probably all Chevy Bolts — in Sacramento by early 2019. A startup company called Envoy plans to operate 142 electric cars of its own, with the first ones beginning trials as early as September. Zipcar has had a small fleet of 20 electric cars operating in the city since 2013.
People will be able to pick up a car in certain parts of the city and drive them anywhere they want, but will be required to drop them off within a geocoded area that is roughly the same as the one presently covered by the city’s JUMP electric bicycle sharing program. Drivers will be exempt from paying for parking on city streets and do not have to pay to recharge the cars.
GIG spokesperson Michael Blasky says his company will track each car electronically and will know when it needs to be charged or moved. “We don’t want people getting into cars that can only go a short distance,” he said. GIG will pay the city an as yet to be determined fee to compensate it for lost parking meter revenue. The cost of renting a car from GIG has not been finally determined at this point, but the cars the company rents in other California cities cost $2.50 a mile, $15 per hour or $85 a day. “The service has to be affordable to be competitive,” Blasky said.
Envoy has a different business model, one that focuses primarily on making the electric cars available to people living in underserved communities. Its cars will be parked on residential private property, particularly at lower rent apartment complexes, which will allow the residents who live there to have easier access to a zero emissions vehicle.
“We are thrilled to advance equitable, environmentally-friendly transportation alongside Electrify America and the City of Sacramento,” Envoy says in a press release. “By bringing our electric vehicles to underserved communities, we’re ensuring the next step in mobility is inclusive and affordable.”
When Jennifer Venema says the Sacramento EV carsharing plans are very much an experiment, she is quite accurate, but it’s not just and experiment for Sacramento, it’s an experiment for the entire United States. What will be happening in Sacramento over the following months and years could presage the future of zero emissions urban mobility for millions of people all across America.
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