California has more electric cars than any other state, but officials have recently redirected their focus toward getting those cars into the hands of lower-income drivers.
The state recently adjusted the rules of its electric-car tax credit to steer funds away from the wealthiest buyers.
And now a new initiative will give low-income individuals the opportunity to use electric cars even if they never buy one.
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The California Air Resources Board (CARB) awarded $1.6 million to the City of Los Angeles to launch an electric-car sharing program.
Known as the Car Sharing and Mobility Options in Disadvantaged Communities Pilot Project, the program will serve an estimated 7,000 residents in working-class communities.
It will help fulfill provisions of the recently-passed bill SB 1275, which established the Charge Ahead Initiative--an umbrella term for efforts to focus electric-car incentives on low-income individuals.
Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.
A second bill, SB 535, sets up the funding framework for this program.
It requires that CARB invest one-quarter of the revenue it receives from the state's carbon cap-and-trade program in disadvantaged communities located in areas with high pollution.
The pilot project will include installation of electric-car charging stations in the designated neighborhoods. The infrastructure will be overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
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Those neighborhoods will also be furnished with a fleet of "advanced technology electric vehicles," although officials weren't willing to discuss which model or models would be used, or in what numbers.
Officials believe a car-sharing program could meet the transportation needs of a large number of L.A. residents.
They cite Federal data showing that about half of all trips made by U.S. residents are just 3 miles or less, and about one third are 1 mile or less.
2014 Fiat 500e
Today, car-sharing and other forms of shared transportation account for 1 percent of trips made in L.A.
Public transportation, walking, or cycling account for an estimated 26 percent.
The announcement of the car-sharing program is already drawing praise from electric-car and environmental advocates.
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Pasquale Romano--CEO of the charging network operator ChargePoint--applauded the decision, saying it shows that "California's innovation economy is for everyone."
"Electric car-sharing reduces both the need to own cars and the pollution that results from burning fossil fuels," said Max Baumhefner, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, in a statement.
Fabiola Lao--Deputy Policy Director at the Coalition for Clean Air--noted that not only will the program increase access to electric cars, but that it could also create more jobs in the communities it serves.