Editorials

Sacramento, make way for electric buses and cars. It’s a good thing.

Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen, poses with the I.D. Buzz all-electric concept van at the North American International Auto Show in January 2017 in Detroit.
Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen, poses with the I.D. Buzz all-electric concept van at the North American International Auto Show in January 2017 in Detroit. AP

The city of Sacramento and VW just put out a more detailed list of how a $44 million windfall will be spent on electric vehicles. They’re on the right path – both to dramatically increase EV use, especially in underserved neighborhoods, and to more closely tie Sacramento and UC Davis.

A most promising new project is electric shuttle bus service between the main UC Davis campus and the UC Davis Health campus in Oak Park, which will also eventually be home to the Aggie Square tech complex.

This is a triple play: It provides more public transit options in a region that desperately needs them. It strengthens the bonds between the region’s major research university and Sacramento. And it will make it easier for workers to get to Aggie Square, which is central to Sacramento’s ambitions to attract research companies and create more higher-paying, high-skill jobs.

Service will be more frequent, and buses will also stop in West Sacramento and downtown Sacramento. The 12 electric buses replacing diesel ones are being built to order so service could start as soon as June 2019. Jointly operated by Regional Transit and the Yolo County Transportation District, the service is expected to add more than 400,000 rides in the first year of operation.

As part of a total bus investment of $11 million to $14 million announced Wednesday, there will also be electric shuttles for on-demand service in the Franklin Boulevard corridor, which has been without a regular bus line since cutbacks in 2008.

RT is planning to launch the app-based service in July with three shuttles. The three electric shuttles to expand the service could start running in the first quarter of 2019. The service is expected to offer 26,000 rides its first year in an area where more than 90 percent covers poorer neighborhoods.

In addition, between $15 million and $18 million will be spent to launch two electric car sharing services.

One, called Gig Car Share and run by AAA, is to start in the first quarter of 2019 with 260 vehicles. Drivers can rent the vehicles by time or distance and pick them up or drop them off at any public parking spot within a 13-square-mile zone, 70 percent of which is in low-income neighborhoods.

The second, a partnership with Envoy Technologies that starts late this summer, is a service based at 71 apartment complexes, where at least two cars can be reserved, picked up and dropped off. Three-fourths of the fleet is expected to serve disadvantaged communities.

And the remaining $14 million to $16 million will go to at least 10 ultra-fast charging stations – each with three to eight ports – open to the public. These stations will have the capacity for 50 kilowatts – commonly used in current EVs – to as much as 350 kilowatts, in preparation for the next generation of vehicles.

The windfall comes from $20 billion in nationwide settlements of the VW emissions cheating scandal. VW created a subsidiary, Electrify America, to invest the money, including $800 million in California. Sacramento is its first “Green City.”

While Electrify America picked the projects, the city did have lots of input. So far, they appear to be wise choices.

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