Shared EV access is expanding in Portland

Portland, Oregon, has started a pilot program to bring car sharing and alternative fuels to low-income neighborhoods where residents might not consider either type of transportation accessible. A partnership between electric-vehicle advocates at Drive Oregon, local utility Pacific Power and the Hacienda Community Development Corporation formed to bring three used Honda Fit EVs and chargers to the Vista de Rosas affordable housing apartment complex.

In communities like Portland, where electric vehicles were adopted pretty quickly and the infrastructure to support them is growing rapidly, pre-owned EVs are not hard to find. They’re also far less expensive than new EVs, even when you figure in the federal tax credit. And they’re cheaper to operate than gasoline vehicles. According to Drive Oregon, fueling and maintaining an EV is about a quarter the cost of a gasoline vehicle.

It’s not unusual for lower-income communities to have higher rates of air pollution and the health impacts that come along with that. These communities are often close to highways and industrial areas; Vista de Rosas is near a busy arterial road and Portland International Airport. Adding shared EVs to the neighborhood reduces emissions for the neighborhood, at least a little. There’s certainly room to improve.

Charging stations were installed at the apartment complex by CarCharging Group to make recharging as convenient as possible and keep the cars in rotation. The cars can be rented by visiting the peer-to-peer site

Keeping shared EVs charged has been a challenge for other businesses. Part of the car2go fleet in Portland was electrified a few years ago, but the service had to abandon the EV idea when it became apparent that the cars were out of rotation for too long while they recharged.

The neighborhood where Vista de Rosas is located in Portland is served by car2go, though it sits in a far corner of the service area. There are fewer shared cars available at the edges; the bulk of the vehicles are in the downtown core of the city. Offering a small fleet of shared EVs in a neighborhood like this one brings the benefits of both car sharing and alternative fuels for errands, appointments and commutes where public transportation can be inconvenient and car ownership can strain a budget.