Electric vehicle carshares are gaining traction in low-income and rural communities across the United States as they aim to make sure that the shift to zero-emission vehicles does not leave social justice in the dust.
In the rural reaches of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Miocar—a four-year-old non-profit with a fleet of three Nissan Leafs and 34 Chevy Bolts served by 10 charging locations—plans to add more cars and locations by year’s end, reports Grist. It also offers guidance to others keen on establishing similar carshares.
Miocar’s commitment to sharing information as well as cars is part of its mission to make zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) accessible to everyone.
“I think it’s great that we’re moving towards ZEVs, but the communities that are continuously left behind are still being left behind,” said Miocar Chief Operating Officer Gloria Huerta.
Income-qualified users can use the shared ZEVs for as little as US$4 per hour, for up to 48 hours at a time—a span that lets drivers make best use of their access to four wheels.
The growing shift from models of car ownership to models of car access means fewer vehicles on the road and fewer emissions, while bringing the benefits of driving to more people.
Should a Miocar user consider owning a car of their own, the company will “connect them to organizations that can explain the tax credits and other incentives that defray the cost of buying an EV, which can go for an average of US$61,488 new.”
That need could arise from the lack of public transit in rural areas. So Miocar also works to ensure that “everyone is able to get the same access to resources,” whether that means renting an EV or securing the funding to buy one.
While rural areas need more EV charging capacity, Susan Buchan, executive director of Boston’s EV carshare Good2Go, warned that “communities need easy and affordable access to EVs to make the chargers more than just harbingers of green gentrification.”
“I’ve heard folks say it’s kind of a slap in the face to watch somebody pull up in a Tesla, charge, and take off,” said Buchan.
But getting equity-focused carshares up and running isn’t easy, writes Grist. “For public-backed car sharing, one of the biggest barriers is funding,” explained Lauren McCarthy, a program director at the Chicago’s Shared-Use Mobility Center.
Public funding is typically available only during a pilot project, which rarely runs beyond two years, so the centre offers a third year of funding assistance to help carshare non-profits get solidly behind the steering wheel.
Other major hurdles include insurance and outreach.
But Miocar is not alone in its efforts to ensure that income is not a barrier to EV access. Boston, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Los Angeles all have similar ventures, supported by local and state dollars—like the Washington State transportation department fund of US$2.8 million to encourage EV carshare efforts in low-income communities.