Shifting the Transportation Paradigm – How Electric Car Sharing Programs are Expanding Equity and Accessibility to EV Technology

February 28, 2022

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for 29% of total U.S. emissions making the transportation sector the largest contributor of GHGs.  Electric vehicles (EVs), along with other alternative fuels, provide important pathways to reducing emissions that impact our climate and health, however cost and access to EVs and charging infrastructure are challenges, especially for lower income and rural communities.  Is it time we shift the paradigm on how we’ve traditionally looked at car ownership and travel, to one that utilizes new, innovative options promoting accessibility and conservation? 

Forth Mobility, a non-profit, working to advance clean and equitable transportation aims to do just that through the Affordable Mobility Program (AMP).  This national partnership is providing electric vehicle car sharing at affordable housing sites, high density parking lots, and local electric utility headquarters in at least six states. The model builds upon Forth’s experience providing a similar program in rural Oregon. A $5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Office will help Forth scale up the AMP program over the next two years by adding partners and 70 new car sharing vehicles to affordable housing complexes in 7 cities across the U.S.

Car sharing programs like the AMP let customers borrow electric cars to run errands, recreate, visit friends and relatives, go to the doctor, get to work, etc.  Imagine eliminating the costs and hassles associated with car ownership (monthly payments, insurance, taxes, registration, maintenance and fuel) and replacing them with a low hourly or daily rental fee and a convenient reservation system that can be accessed through an app or an RFID card.

In addition to the AMP, several cities across the country are offering similar EV sharing programs allowing them to reduce GHG emissions and provide residents with an affordable, sustainable transportation option that doesn’t require ownership.  Combining EV access and equity is at the forefront of Boston’s Good2Go program which provides a sliding scale of rental rates depending on income levels.  The city’s goal is for 100% of residents to be within a 10-minute walk to an EV car sharing facility or public EV charger. Denver offers an EV sharing program too and has pledged to expand the service to underserved communities and essential workers.  Los Angeles’ BlueLA, is a pilot EV sharing program for low-income communities where standard membership rates are reduced based on qualifying income levels.

Electric car sharing offers another tool in the transportation tool box and joins the ranks of other shared low cost transportation services like e-bikes, e-scooters and public transportation.  These transportation options are shaking up the status quo, opening up new possibilities when it comes to getting around, and encouraging us to question whether or not we really need a two-car household when we have options that can fill in the gaps.  

With more and more people working from home, inflation rates rising, and EV access for all a challenge, non-profits like Forth Mobility and cities around the country who are adopting EV car sharing programs can help shift the transportation paradigm in ways that have great potential to cut household costs, cut carbon footprints, and cut inequalities related to accessible, clean transportation.  Go Forth!