A Promising Model for Electrifying Transportation Equitably
Minneapolis and St. Paul residents logged 25,000 trips and nearly 250,000 miles on the nation’s first renewably powered all-electric car-share program
To wrap up September, there is positive news coming out of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, where they are reporting the first six months of usage data for Evie Carshare. Paired with EV Spot Network curbside charging, Evie Carshare is the nation’s first municipally owned, renewably powered electric car-share program. This innovative transportation approach is led by Mayor Melvin Carter and his team at the city of St. Paul. This program was developed by a public-private partnership on steroids: the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, HOURCAR, Xcel Energy, East Metro Strong, and the American Lung Association.
Evie Carshare's initial fleet of 101 Chevy Bolts—operating in a 35-square-mile service area—is leased by the city of St. Paul and operated by HOURCAR under contract with the city. This service became available in the transportation market at exactly the right moment for many residents. With inflation, COVID-19, fluctuating gas prices, and vehicle supply chain issues all exerting pressures, the prices of new and used vehicles escalated—if you could even find or afford a car in the first place. This was the scene when Evie Carshare came onto the Twin Cities stage in February 2022. Since then, the program has:
- reduced an estimated 741 metric tons of greenhouse gases;
- saved residents an estimated $2.6 million on transportation costs, including $0.85 million in estimated savings for very-low-income households;
- logged nearly 25,000 trips, totaling almost a quarter of a million miles; and by using Access PLUS, Evie Carshare’s qualified low-income rate plan, very-low-income residents drove 33 percent of total trip hours.
This program came about as a public-private solution to a private sector failure to provide one-way carshare ever since Car2Go left St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2016. Veteran car-share nonprofit HOURCAR had been serving the cities with two-way car sharing for 15 years. The lack of a one-way car-share service in the region was cited as a weakness in the overall transportation system. Car sharing supports people who primarily bike, walk, and take transit to be able to use a car when they need it, and it also allows households to own fewer vehicles overall. Evie Carshare was designed to serve 10 neighborhoods not previously served by HOURCAR’s two-way car-sharing, which not coincidentally are neighborhoods not well served by transit.
Stepping back from the six-month report, what does this usage snapshot of a car-share program in the Midwest mean, and why does it matter?
In the coming months and years, meaningful federal investment will pour into the state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations, and then trickle down to the cities. Indeed, the program in St. Paul and Minneapolis would not be possible without funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and the Department of Energy (funding that was allocated before the emergence of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act).
Much of the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funding will go toward roads and to electrifying our transportation system. We know from our colleagues at RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) that we need to both rapidly electrify our transportation system and give residents more transportation choices to reduce our reliance on private cars if we are to achieve the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change standard of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming; even if the country can electrify 70 million vehicles by 2030, we still need to reduce overall vehicle miles traveled (and their associated emissions) by 20 percent by 2030. Car sharing allows people to own fewer cars—typically one car-share vehicle replaces 9 to 13 personal vehicles—and drive less overall.
In addition to the reality that electrifying our transportation system alone will not be enough, there are other considerable equity and access concerns related to the fairness of charging network distribution and incentive programs meant to make electric vehicles more ubiquitous. Equity and access were built into the program design of Evie Carshare: a representative slice of residents in the service area were consulted via a prototyping process; neighborhood organizations were partnered on outreach; and equity benchmarks were built into HOURCAR’s contract with the city of St. Paul. Early data on the ability of the service to meet these metrics are promising, and we will know more once the remaining 70 electric vehicles are added to the fleet and more fine-grained demographic data is available after HOURCAR’s fall 2022 census.
NRDC and its members and partners across the country are working to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funds seize the opportunity to mitigate climate change and improve air quality, address historical harms caused by decisions about the location and nature of transportation infrastructure, and give Americans more choices about how they move about their days. Electric car sharing—in the metropolitan regions where it makes sense and even in rural areas where communities are deploying it (like Míocar and Forth)—must absolutely be part of the solution, and Evie Carshare is charting the path forward for others to follow.
The Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge and NRDC supported the local partners in turning the concept for Evie Carshare into reality. During my time as climate advisor to the city of St. Paul during the American Cities Climate Challenge, I managed the rollout of EV Spot Network and Evie Carshare. Now six months in, we are seeing results.