After admitting in 2016 to lying about excessive diesel emissions, Volkswagen (VW) agreed to pay $14.7b in penalties of which $2b will be invested by a VW subsidiary called Electrify America to boost electric vehicle use. Of that, $800m goes to California where the state is requiring nearly $300m be spent to help low-income and disadvantaged communities gain access to electric vehicles, according to The New York Times. As a result, Sacramento is a hub for numerous electric vehicle pilot programs and the only controversy is whether more areas of California should get to have similar pilots.
- Starting this summer they will have three new all-electric, eight-seat shuttles providing passengers service along a major thoroughfare, cutting down on exhaust from a nearby highway usually choked by diesel pollution.
- A low-income senior apartment complex now has two Kia Soul electric cars that are part of a free car-sharing program that began in May 2017.
- Another program in the city installed140 all-electric Volkswagen e-Golfs at 70 low-income apartment complexes for car-sharing by residents there at a cost of 15 cents/minute a minute or $9/hour.
- A program called Gig this month started putting all-electric Chevrolet Bolts on a 13-square-mile zone between downtown and midtown of Sacramento at a cost of $2.50 a mile or $15 an hour.
It’s not just happening in California, however. A French company, Bolloré Group has installed electric cars for sharing across Indianapolis modeled on the AutoLib service in Paris. Called BlueIndy, the car-sharing service is convenient, affordable and good for the environment, and a missing link in Indy — a sprawling city with limited public transportation options. What makes BlueIndy more workable for some than other car sharing programs is that it allows one-way trips and its subscriptions start at $9.99/month. Users can pick up at one of the many stations located around the city and drop off at any other station, which allows for commuting and errand running uses
Why This Matters: This is a great use of the VW settlement dollars. EVs should be for everyone, not just those who can afford a Tesla. In California, where there are generous tax incentives for purchasing electric, most low-income residents still could not afford them. Car sharing programs are a great entry point for these vehicles to break through. Their affordability – no paying for gas – and their zero emissions, make these programs a great way for the industry to scale across the country, especially in suburban and rural areas where public transit options are sparse and a car is essential.