This blog was co-authored with Maurice Muia, Climate Advisor to the City of St. Louis.
In the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), most cities are focusing on municipal bus fleets. But St. Louis is thinking outside the box: On September 30, the city celebrated the launch of the innovative St. Louis Vehicle Electrification Rides for Seniors (SiLVERS), an equity-minded program that will provide EV shuttle service to senior or disabled residents in underserved communities.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the three-year pilot project, implemented by Forth, will roll out with five Chevy Bolts and ten accompanying charging stations. Three of the vehicles will be utilized by the Northside Youth and Senior Service Center (NSYSSC) to give elderly or disabled locals in North St. Louis a lift to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, and other essential errands. The other two vehicles will help City Seniors to deliver meals to the housebound and provide other transportation service in South St. Louis.
A groundbreaking concept, the SiLVERS program accomplishes multiple goals. For one, it demonstrates the cost benefits of EV fleets for social service agencies and how that can translate to improved quality of service. Since each Bolt gets nearly 260 miles per charge, the operating and maintenance costs are lower than those of gas-powered vehicles, allowing these organizations to spend more time and money on serving their customers and less on fueling their cars.
Additionally, the charging stations outside of these two organizations will be made available to the public when not in use by the Bolts. Employees and community members will be able to utilize the chargers via a sharing platform created by AmpUp. And local utility Ameren recently developed incentives of up to 50 percent on installation costs for future charging stations to further encourage adoption of EVs in these neighborhoods. This wider availability of charging stations will help to promote the increased use of EVs, leading to cleaner air and greater health benefits overall.
Most importantly, the SiLVERS program will simultaneously address the needs of an underserved population and bring clean energy innovation to low-income communities. These communities are often overlooked or left behind when it comes to investments in new sustainable technologies, but the SiLVERS program will actively work to reverse this inequity by prioritizing low-income areas.
This program is just one of the many ways that St. Louis is embarking on a clean energy future. In March, Mayor Lyda Krewson signed an executive order to formally begin the transition of the City’s fleets to EVs, along with the release of an accompanying implementation guide. These build on top of an already existing trio of EV readiness ordinances was released for new-construction buildings and renovation of existing buildings, marking St. Louis as an EV leader in the Midwest.
In attendance at the SiLVERS ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place at NSYSSC headquarters, were several of the partners involved in developing the SiLVERS concept with the city of St. Louis, which was a participant in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. These included NRDC, Forth, North Newstead Association, NSYSSC, and City Seniors, along with Ameren, St. Louis Area Agency on Aging, and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities.