This Learning Module on the Importance of Shared, Electric Mobility, is part of a collaboration between SUMC and the Hewlett Foundation that aims to explore a broad array of electric and shared mobility pilot projects across the U.S. and to build greater understanding of these innovative projects across various disciplines.
Transportation is now the greatest direct source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US. While the repercussions of climate change may seem distant, the internal combustion engines (ICE) in vehicles pose serious public health issues, emitting nitrous oxides and particulate matter linked to asthma and cancer. For the sake of both the environment and social equity, transportation must evolve. In its comprehensive 2014 report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the (IPCC) deconstructs direct transportation GHG emissions into the four variables, historically referred to as the “ASIF” model.
The sum of all the attributes of a vehicle trip (F, I and A) multiplied by the average distance traveled per person (S) represent a mitigation equation to measure progress towards curbing harmful pollution from transportation.
Electric mobility is concerned with technological change around the latter variables, fuel and energy intensity. Electrification of transportation has skyrocketed, globally, from fewer than a quarter-million vehicles in 2013 to over 4 million in 2019. The recent, and now exponential, growth of electric mobility is enabled by improvements in battery chemistry and the maturation of large-scale battery production in China and Europe. Per kilowatt (kW), the unit of storage used in batteries, the cost in 2020 is less than 10% of what it was in 2010 according to the International Energy Agency’s 2019 Global EV Outlook. The result has been a rapid growth of models available from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and commitments to move towards fully electric fleets.
This transition to electric mobility offers immediate impacts to public health, moving the mobile source pollution emitted from ICE vehicles away from population centers to distant power plants where energy is generated and point source pollution is better contained.
However, electricity in the US comes from a patchwork of regional grids powered by a mix of renewable (e.g. wind and solar) and non-renewable (e.g. coal, natural gas, oil) sources. The degree that electric vehicles impact the environment, and the mitigation equation, hinges on how much each grid relies on carbon-intense, non-renewable sources. The large-scale infrastructure shift to cleaner energy sources represents the long-term imperative for halting climate change.
To have the greatest impact, electrification must accompany a focus on travel activity and mode shift.
The original most common form of shared mobility, transit reduces emissions and traffic by moving high volumes of people together, quickly, over ranges as short as a few blocks across or between cities. But good transit fundamentally requires high population density of riders going the same direction and a streetscape that allows riders to easily get to and from a stop. In the present landscape those conditions often aren’t available, leaving many to choose to driving a car if they’re able.
A resource efficient transportation system that moves more people with fewer motorized trip is already possible. Nearly 60% of all surface transportation trips are under five miles and another 25% are under 15 miles. When guided by supportive policies, partnerships and infrastructure, shared mobility options like bikeshare and scootershare (together often termed ‘micromobility’) can offer critical first and last-mile access to quality transit. Longer-distance services, like carshare and rideshare, can also fill service gaps where the conditions to support transit are minimal or nonexistent. By offering a menu of quality alternatives to vehicle ownership, people are free to choose the option that best fits the needs of their day-to-day lives instead of facing a transportation ultimatum. Like electric mobility, shared mobility is a decades-old idea that has seen tremendous growth in the last decade due to technology advances in smartphones and digital infrastructure: what started with informal bike libraries and neighborhood vehicle sharing is now estimated to be a $60 billion-dollar industry globally.
Shared mobility can also help address key barriers towards electrification. In a national review, Expanding Access to Electric Mobility, researchers at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) cite lack of public awareness about improved battery performance, affordability relative to ICE vehicles, and access to adequate charging as some of the continued factors that prevent wider adoption of electric vehicles. Shared mobility offers a way for consumers to experience and learn about electric vehicle technology firsthand without the commitment or cost of ownership. While the upfront cost of purchase can be higher for individuals, the relatively low cost of charging and maintenance compared to ICE vehicles helps bring down the total cost of ownership (TCO) as vehicles are driven more–like those used in shared fleets. Similarly, this high use energizes the market for public charging more than personally owned vehicles, which drivers generally prefer to charge at home if possible.[i] That charging supply can help spark demand by opening up the possibility for ownership to a wider group of drivers, and in the long term, widespread use can help create the economies of scale necessary to bring down the cost of batteries.
The 60% of short-range trips can often be addressed with a form of micromobility, provided there are lanes and trails to provide connectivity and a moderate-to-high density of riders. Bikeshare offers short-term rentals for riders to take and return bikes from docking stations. Some dockless services simply require bikes to stay within a zone without the need for return stations, though this type of service often require more bikes or a smaller service area. Electric pedal-assist bikes are present in both models. Scootershare offer a similar service as dockless bikeshare, but with up-right or seated electric scooters. Unlike bikeshare, most scooter services do not offer memberships and institute a pay-per-use model. Relative to bikeshare, scootershare has quickly expanded around the country, particularly in warmer climates, and found a new market in those uncomfortable with or unable to use a bike.[i] According to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, vehicles with batteries under 750 Watts with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour are not subject to the same kind of regulations as cars under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.[ii] By federal statute, electric scooters and bikes are considered “low-speed electric bicycles.”
The 25% of trips at a mid-range (5 to 15 miles) are best suited for on-demand services, particularly when in moderate density environments with poor connectivity. Microtransit can offer flexible routes and schedules that riders can call ahead of time for rides. This kind of service can move anywhere from between a few to 20 passengers at a time depending on what kind of medium-duty vehicle (MDV) is used, often shuttles or vans. Ridehailing refers to services such on Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. These can be effective at addressing transit service gaps, particularly for infrequent trips or odd times of the day.[ii][iii] However, because they use light-duty vehicles (LDVs) and mostly provide low-occupancy trips, the ease and low-cost of ridehailing has likely contributed to increased congestion and VMT in large cities[iv] due to their compared to traditional taxi service.
The 15% of trips over 15 miles can often be addressed through the two most long-standing forms of shared mobility. Carshare offers short-term rentals from a managed fleet or cars sourced from community (‘peer-to-peer) that can be used for one-way trips (‘free-floating’) or two-way trips. Carshare works best for moderate-to-high density neighborhoods so that users can walk to cars and for medium-to-long range trips (5 to 20 miles). Free-floating service, which is less typical, is often limited to low-to-medium range trips (3 to 10 miles).[v] Ridesharing is the catch-all term for shared trips between drivers and passengers with a common destination, be that informal carpooling with several individuals or schedule vanpooling with a group. Ridesharing has seen a revival in recent years due to digital platforms that offer more on-demand service.
Electric mobility services use a variety of motors. Popularized by cars such as the Toyota Prius, Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) run mostly on gasoline, converting heat generated by the car’s braking system to electricity that can be used to power the vehicle at low speeds for about two miles. By comparison, true electric mobility use Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs). Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are PEVs that can recharge the battery through both regenerative braking like HEVs, but usually need to be plugged in to an external source of electrical power. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are all-electric with no gas engine, enabling larger batteries capable of longer ranges.
Just like engines that run on gas, PEVs have their own set of technical terminology. Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is the industry term for charging stations and charging appliances. When discussing EVSE, it’s important to talk about how electricity works and where it comes from. The US Department of Energy maintains a helpful guide. A common analogy in electrical engineering relates batteries to a wheel powered by water from a hose.
In the US, 78% of power production comes from the private sector, about evenly split between several hundred large, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and several thousand small independent producers. The other 22% comes from the public sector, with 7% coming from nine federal facilities and about 15% from mid-sized, publicly-owned utilities (POUs) run at the municipal or regional level. Transmission grids (often just ‘the grid’) refer to the high-voltage transformers and power lines that deliver electricity across regions to low-voltage, local distribution networks connected to outlets or transformers.
Electronic devices draw Alternating Current (AC) power, which is then converted to Direct Current (DC) power, the kind stored by batteries. As clearly defined by the EVSE provider EVgo, AC Level 1 charging requires only a plug and a conventional 120V outlet and can deliver 1.9 kilowatts (kW), or about four miles of range per hour of charging. This is what would be most appropriate for small batteries, like those used on bikes or scooters. AC Level 2 charging requires a 240V power source, like those used for heavy appliances, and can deliver up to 19.2 kW from a specialized charging station, offering up to 20 miles per hour spent charging. AC Level 3 charging, which is still under development, would allow for up to 43 kW. All AC charging uses a standard plug, SAE J-1772, to draw power.
With DC Fast Charging, the AC to DC conversion happens in the station instead of the vehicle. These specialized stations can draw up to 480-volts that can be fed directly and quickly to the battery on board the vehicle. Due to the smaller size of batteries in many PHEVs, not all PEVs can use DC Fast Charging equipment. While a DC Fast Charger can deliver between 50 and 350 kW, or ninety range miles in 30 minutes, only certain brands of BEVs are capable of taking advantage of this higher-output charging, with 350 kW being the maximum for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) like buses and 150 kW for LDVs.[i] DC Fast Charging uses a variety of plugs depending on the vehicle manufacturer. The Combined Charging System, sometimes called “combo” chargers are used for American and European BEVs, while CHAdeMO is used for Japanese brands and Tesla Superchargers for its own network.[ii] Since 2013, Tesla has offered drivers an adapter that can convert CHAdeMO fast charging or AC J1772 connectors to its vehicles.
Whatever the type, there is a strong need for publicly accessible EVSE. The ICCT estimates that among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, all but 12 are predicted to face charging shortages unless AC Level 2 charging at workplaces increases by 7x and destination charging by 3x.[iii] Due the slower charging rate, the relationship between the number of PEVs on the road and Level 2 ports is much more closely tied and many more Level 2 stations are needed than Fast Chargers. However, cities must still establish a baseline density of Fast Chargers.[iv] The National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggesting one public Level 2 for approximately every 29 PHEVs and one Fast Charging point for every 588 BEVs.
Shared modes that best compliment Level 2 charging are those with several hours of inactivity at a time, such as ridepools or carsharing, that can be located at at park-and-rides, workplaces, residential developments or on-street parking with low turnover. For shared mobility services with high turnover, such as rides-on demand and certain carsharing models, Fast Charging helps minimize lost revenue spent charging.[vi] Pilot programs like Maven Gig and Lyft Express, which allow drivers to rent PEVs by the week from dealers and receive complimentary charging, show that Fast Charging is likely critical to wider adoption among drivers.[vi]
For transit using MDVs and HDVs, on-route charging can supplement overnight charging at storage depots and minimize service disruptions during the day. Because of the high cost of installation relative to the unit itself, it can be more cost effective to cluster different forms of Fast Charging together even when supplying different modes. [vii]
Because of the applicability across EV modes and the relatively low cost of installation and operation, AC charging can be built out in greater volumes and is appealing to a wider group of stakeholders. When left to the market, Fast Charging deployment has largely been led by OEMs to support vehicle sales. The largest deployments of Fast Charging have come as a result of public spending programs or as restitution, the most notable being a 2016 settlement with Volkswagen that directs $2 billion dollars of investment in EVSE installation and another $2.7 billion in PEV grant funding to states.[viii] Attaining a baseline coverage away from highly utilized traffic corridors or commercial destinations will likely require similar public support.
The Role of Federal Policy
In the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) supports capital expenses for “regular, continuing, shared-ride surface transportation services.” When designed to support public transit, many programs can be directed to capital expenses related to shared mobility service:
In addition to the FTA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) offers several funding opportunities for projects affiliated with the National Highway System:
The Role of State and Local Policies
Elected or appointed legislative committees and state departments of transportation oversee key regulations and mandates relating to transit, motor vehicles and energy markets–or explicitly delegate that authority to regional and local units of government. One increasingly important state entity are public utility commissions, which oversee the regulatory environment for utilities and electric vehicle charging. As managers of the public right-of-way and public transit operators, federal and state funding sources shared and electric mobility services are most often directed through regional and local entities, ranging from regional planning organizations, councils of governments, and metropolitan planning organizations at the regional level to counties and cities at the local level. These entities have generally led regulation, funding and operations of shared and electric mobility services and the integration of these services into land use planning.[ii]
The National Association of State Energy Officials identifies several general goals behind state and local policies that promote PEVs as a means to improve public health and reduce transportation emissions.[iii] Public investments and regulations are generally designed to either raise public awareness, encourage individual or fleet use, or improve market conditions in the short and long terms. The following are examples of policies supporting all forms of shared and electric mobility in California, which has led the nation in planning for electrification of transportation.
California Laws and Regulations
In 1990, the California legislature passed a mandate requiring that vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) produce PHEVs, BEVs or FCEVs in proportion to a fraction of their vehicle sales in the state. As the largest auto market in the country, the ZEV mandate is credited with jumpstarting the modern PEV market and prompting other states—Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, New Jersey, New York Rhode Island and Vermont to adopt the same standard.
Years later in 2006, the California legislature passed the nation’s first emissions cap-and-trade program, creating a market-based framework to reduce emissions from heavy-polluting industries. Among other measures, Assembly Bill 32 authorized the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to oversee emission reduction targets in transportation. In 2012, Senate Bill 535 directed CARB to invest cap-and-trade revenues for shared and electric mobility services in pollution-burdened and low-income communities. That year, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-16-2012 and set a statewide goal that 1.5 million of vehicles on the road be powered by electricity of fuel cells.
In 2015, Senate Bill 350 set a target to transition half of all electricity use in the state to renewable sources by 2030. Among other measures, SB 350 directed the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission to assist IOUs in creating integrated resource plans or strategies to reduce GHG emissions associated with their power generation. To prevent energy monopolies, states place limitations on the degree that power generators—utilities—can own power supply infrastructure, including EVSE. The CPUC has used SB 350 as a means to relax or introduce regulations to change this, allowing IOUs to directly invest in EVSE and for POUs to direct revenue to public charging through a strategy called ‘rate-basing.’ On the power demand side, the PUC has encouraged plans for ‘managed charging’ that would alter the cost of electricity according to ‘time of use’. Doing so would help incentivize charging during periods when renewable electricity is often generated, during the day, and reduce demand during the evenings. Utilities can also direct revenue to rebate programs for developers that build EVSE or build out “make-ready” spaces wired with the electrical infrastructure to potentially support charging in the future.
In 2018, CARB set a requirement that 100 percent of new transit and school buses be ZEVs, allocating $533 million dollars to support clean transportation and mobility pilot projects in 2019 alone.[iv]
California Programs and Case Studies
To promote social equity in the transition to renewable energy and guide cap-and-trade funding from SB 535, CARB released Low-Income Barriers Study, Part B: Overcoming Barriers to Clean Transportation Access for Low-Income Residents in 2015. The report helped establish grant funding for shared and electric mobility services, including:
Blue LA is a public, all-electric carsharing service led by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the City of Los Angeles and the mobility operator BlueSystems. BlueLA partnered with several community-based organizations—the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund (SALEF), and TRUST South LA—to form a steering committee to help guide the pilot design and community outreach. At 100 electric car-sharing vehicles across 110 Level 2 charging stations, the program will help transform clean mobility in downtown L.A.[v]
Green Raiteros offers free, all-electric rides on-demand to Fresno from the agricultural families in the rural Central Valley of California. The Latino Environmental Advancement and Policy Institute (LEAP) led outreach and marketing, and management of day-to-day operations such as driver recruitment and ride scheduling. The program uses two Chevy Bolts and a BMW i3. EVgo and Electrify America sponsored 22 public Level 2 chargers for the program, split between LEAP’s community center and three apartment complexes.[vi]
Our Community CarShare is a free carsharing service offered to residents of three affordable housing sites in Sacramento. The city bought a fleet of eight vehicles, installed Level 2 charging at dedicated spaces at Mutual Housing apartments, and integrated service with Zipcar. Community Carshare was able to leverage the expertise of Zipcar and maximize its impact by providing users consistent access to vehicles and charging equipment. Sacramento has since launched an aggressive zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) campaign to expand electric transit and shared mobility.[vii]
The Little Roady autonomous shuttle is dubbed the longest free transportation route in the country. The electric autonomous pilot launched in May 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island. The service uses 6-passenger electric vehicles operating autonomously on a continuous 5.3-mile loop between Providence Station and Olneyville Square.
CARB has since started the Clean Mobility Options (CMO) Vouchers for Disadvantaged Communities program, which is directing $32M in funding and capacity-building to disadvantaged communities deploying shared and electric mobility solutions. The program is administered by CALSTART and SUMC in partnership with Local Government Commission and GRID Alternatives. For more information about Clean Mobility Options, visit the project site or read more at the SUMC Learning Center.
A global transition to electric mobility is a question of when, not if. Thirteen countries have committed to halting the sale of ICE vehicles—including large vehicle markets such as the UK, France and China. In all three, 100% of new residential buildings must be fitted with wire conduits or provide large up-front subsidies for the build-out of charging stations. Technology-enforcing regulations like these have helped spur the rapid growth of PEV models. By 2025, European automakers such as BMW, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat-Chrysler, Audi, Volkswagen and Volvo will have each spent tens of billions of dollars to transition production away from ICE models with others such as General Motors, Honda and Toyota close behind. As shared mobility continues to expand and evolve, this trend will only improve the viability electrification.
Even in the absence of greater federal leadership, states, regions and cities around the country continue to plan for and fund efforts shared and electric mobility across modes. To scan for shared and electric initiatives around the country, visit ArcGIS.
References are organized by section.
Relation to Shared Mobility
Shared Mobility Concets and Definitions
Electric Mobility Concepts and Definitions
[iii] Quantifying the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Gap Across U.S. Markets (ICCT, 2019)
Funding and Policy
[iv] Proposed Fiscal Year 2019-20 Funding Plan for Clean Transportation Incentives. (CARB, 2019).