(NewsNation) — In the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, residents who need to take a quick trip to grab groceries, visit a doctor and run other necessary errands now have the option to do so with the help of a new electric car-share program.
Evie Carshare — which bills itself as the nation’s first renewable energy-powered municipally-owned car-share service — partnered with Minnesota-based nonprofit Hourcar, providing short-term rental electric cars.
Users can choose from a fleet of Chevy Bolts and can drive the cars within a 35-square-mile home area between Minneapolis and St. Paul, where drivers start and end their trips.
The idea is to improve access to affordable transportation for those who need it while still being environmentally conscious.
The Twin Cities estimate that between February and July, the first six months where the program ran uninterrupted, Evie Carshare led to a 741 metric ton reduction in greenhouse gas as a consequence of around 25,000 trips.
The program saved residents an estimated $2.6 million in transportation costs — around a third of which was saved by very low-income households.
Erin Kayser, who serves as the EV Charging and Electric Carshare Program Coordinator for the city of St. Paul, also argued that there are other benefits of the program.
“I think there’s also social benefits as well like by providing access to in some cases single-occupant vehicle miles, right? Not having to take public transit to a doctor’s appointment, being able to take a car. Being able to pick up your kid from school in a vehicle instead of putting a sick kid on public transit or taking an Uber,” she said.
But setting up the program was not easy. It suffered a major setback and delay when General Motors, which produces the Chevy Bolts leased by Evie, issued a broad recall due to the possibility of battery fires.
The initiative has been backed by a multitude of funders, including the U.S. Department of Energy and the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council.
“It’s a whole slew of different (organizations) that are coming together to kind of make this happen and keep it going,” said James Vierling, Head of Growth, Marketing, & Communications at Hourcar.
He said they’re working on securing additional grant funding so they can expand the program.
Still, there is a membership fee and usage costs to access the cars across the metro area, though there is a discounted membership for low-income users.
Drivers can get some money back if they end their trip at a public charging station. One thing that makes Evie Carshare unique is that it’s supported by the EVSpot charging network, supported by a local utility called Xcel Energy, which is powered by renewable energy.
“I don’t know how (easy) this is to replicate elsewhere. What makes us also very unique is we’re powered with Xcel Energy the regional energy provider, so they’re working with us and they’re a sponsor of the project. So they’re just as actively involved, which is kind of a rarity,” Vierling said.