Drive Oregon’s February Event: Equity & Electric Car Sharing

(February 24, 2017) – Last week Drive Oregon had the pleasure of hosting Joel Espino, Environmental Equity Legal Counsel at the Greenling Institute. Not all communities have equal access to clean transportation, and Drive Oregon is committed to reducing that disparity. To explore this topic and the potential solutions, we invited Joel to discuss how the Greenlining Institute is working to support and promote electric car sharing in traditionally underserved communities.

The mission of the Greenlining Institute is to advance economic opportunity and empowerment for people of color through advocacy, coalition and community building, research and leadership development. As part of the Environmental Equity team, Joel Espino’s work is centered around advocating for clean transportation and implementing California’s Senate Bill 1725, the Charge Ahead Initiative. The Initiative calls for one million electric vehicles on the road by 2023 and includes a provision for low-income communities to have increased access to clean transportation.

One route to increasing access is through electric car sharing programs, which enable community members to rent electric vehicles by the minute, hour, or day. This type of program has great potential but, as Joel noted, is challenging to establish for a variety of reasons.

In his remarks, Joel identified a number of barriers to the successful implementation of car sharing services in low-income communities. Unless the program is designed correctly, potential users who could benefit may not be able to afford the service, easily sign up to be a user, or access the service from their home or work. Additionally, there may be cultural and informational barriers. How can these barriers be overcome? Joel stressed the need to take a community-driven approach, as opposed to a “one solution fits all” approach. He highlighted the importance of partnering with community organizations, conducting targeted outreach in multiple languages, addressing specific mobility needs and siting charging infrastructure in safe, frequently used areas.

There are also barriers from a service operator’s point of view: profitability and need. Is there actual demand for a car sharing service? Will the cost of liability reduce the potential profits? Joel stressed that to bring operators to the table, several methods should be employed: finding robust funding sources, offering operator subsidies, pooling risk funds, and demonstrating the demand for a car sharing service.

For a more in-depth look at these barriers and solutions, download the Greenlining Institute’s full report on this topic, Electric Carsharing in Underserved Communities: Considerations for Program Success. Joel worked with the Institute’s Environmental Equity Director, Vien Truong, to create this report that continues to be a guiding resource in the development and implementation of new programs.

Joel concluded his presentation with the news that California has set aside an additional $8 million in the 2016/2017 fiscal year for developing car sharing pilot programs in underserved communities. To date, programs are under development in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Huron. Joel and his colleagues at the Greenling Institute will continue to be actively involved, providing support to ensure the success of these programs.

Thank You to Our Sponsor

This event was sponsored by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS). The Bureau’s 2017 Electric Vehicle Strategy is centered around equity and many of the action goals target increasing the access to charging infrastructure and affordable clean transportation options. Drive Oregon looks forward to providing support to BPS to help it meet the Strategy’s 2020 goals.

There is a pronounced difference between equality and equity and it’s important to be mindful of this difference, Joel noted. Equality refers to the everyone’s right to have access to clean transportation and equity refers to the availability of clean transportation to the communities who need it most, emphasizing inclusion and fairness. 

Joel’s presentation can be viewed here: