Unlike large cities with extensive public transportation networks, residents in the nation’s rural communities typically don’t have easy access to transportation solutions that take them from Point A to B. As a result, rural residents experience far less accessibility to public social activities and services—especially lower-income residents for whom purchasing an automobile may be cost prohibitive.
Hood River, Oregon, is one such rural area, with a population of nearly 8,000—6 percent of which had an income below the poverty level in 2019, according to City-Data.com.
A new, first-of-its-kind electric vehicle (EV) carsharing project was launched in 2021 in Hood River and will occur over the next three years.
The Clean Rural Shared Electricity—or CRuSE—project is led by Portland, Oregon-based electric, smart, and shared mobility nonprofit Forth. The project involves stationing five Honda Clarity EVs around the town—two near affordable housing sites that are underserved by existing public transportation, two near City of Hood River property to encourage use by city employees, and one near the waterfront for access in and around recreational activities.
The cars can be reserved using the Envoy There mobile app, allowing payment by the hour. iPads will be made available for those who lack internet access or smartphones.
A team of researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is partnering with Forth, providing analytics expertise to glean information and best practices around the economics and environmental impacts of EV carsharing programs. The data gained will then be used to inform similar programs in other rural areas.
The team is designing a survey aimed at obtaining information from the carsharing users. The questions touch on diverse topics such as how a user typically travels around town, how many trips they take per day, average miles traveled, and what tasks they perform—like grocery shopping or accessing medical care—that would spur them to use carsharing services.
The researchers will receive survey data from when an EV is checked out using the Envoy app, as well as from vehicles, charging stations, and price data, to determine whether EV carsharing programs are economically sustainable and result in quantifiable carbon savings. The analysis of all this data will culminate in a report that will guide Department of Energy (DOE) investments for future rural mobility programs. The analysis will be shared with DOE’s SMART (Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation) Mobility Laboratory Consortium.
The project is sponsored by DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO). CRuSE is helping VTO meet its goal of fostering collaboration among Clean Cities coalitions, shared mobility partners, planning organizations, and local governments. Project partners involved besides the City of Hood River include the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition, Pacific Power, mobile app and electric carshare service provider Envoy Technologies, American Honda, and several others.