The city of Sacramento on Wednesday announced a $44 million investment by Electrify America to bring hundreds of electric vehicles to the city over the next year, an initiative officials hope will encourage sustainability, simplify transportation and ease traffic downtown.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the project is part of a reparations effort by Volkswagen, which owns Electrify America. After its diesel emissions scandal, the automaker agreed to pay more than $20 billion in settlements, which included a deal with California to designate and invest in one "green city." Sacramento won the competition to become that city, Steinberg said, and the mayor says that success is part of a bigger goal of using more renewable vehicles beyond the city's borders.
"It’s $44 million of game-changing investment for our city and our region," Steinberg said. "Our goals are big and our vision is broad. We want to be the vision of alternative fuel technology in the entire state."
The project includes 260 electric vehicles from Gig Car Share, which will function like the burgeoning bike share industry; users can locate nearby cars with an app and drive them anywhere within a 13-square-mile radius of the "home zone," according to a news release. The cars will be available in early 2019.
Once one driver has parked the car and finished using it, someone else with the app can take over. Users pay by rental time or distance traveled — whichever is cheaper — and can attach bikes to the roof-mounted rack, the news release said.
"People are going to have such an easier time getting around," said Steinberg, who predicts that the advent of car sharing will decrease reliance on individually owned vehicles, which could reduce traffic downtown. "You really don’t (need to own a car to get around), especially if there are clean vehicle options."
An additional 142 electric ride-share cars will be offered through another firm, Envoy Technologies, to residents of specific apartment complexes around town, the news release said. Those cars will be ready to drive by summer's end.
Those who commute frequently between Davis and Sacramento will also benefit from the project. Electrify America will pay for 12 electric buses, co-run by Sacramento Regional Transit and the Yolo County Transportation District, to travel between UC Davis' main campus and the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. The buses are expected to be ready in 12 to 18 months, the news release said.
"Making it easier for people to get across that causeway is a key piece of connecting UC Davis and Sacramento in a more significant way," Steinberg said. "This is the first very large step in making that happen."
Steinberg is especially elated by increased ease of access to the medical center because of the Aggie Square technology campus that will be built nearby.
"This is our project with Davis and the business community to build an innovation center in Sacramento that will be a job creator, an incubator for new businesses, pathways for college and high school students," he said.
The investment's third transportation component is a shuttle service, which will help residents of Franklin Boulevard's nearby neighborhoods get around town. The area has been without bus service since 2008, the news release said. Sacramento RT will start operating three buses in July, and Electrify America will pay to replace those buses with electric ones in early 2019.
"More than 90 percent of the micro-shuttle’s service territory is in a low-income or disadvantaged Sacramento neighborhood," the news release said.
Electrify America will also install more than 10 electric vehicle charging stations around the Sacramento region, the news release said.
"The impact of this (project) … I don’t even think we realize today just how big this is," Steinberg said. "I think there are many components of it that are transformational."