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Electric Car Program Targets Downtown, SW Fresno Customers
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 6 months ago on
October 11, 2023

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If you want to be one of the first people in southwest or downtown Fresno to use a new electric car-sharing program, you can soon register with EV-Werx Carshare.

Possibly as soon as next week, the car-sharing program will roll out vehicles to its first customers, says Dr. Cassandra Little. She’s overseeing the program that’s being administered through the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce’s Biz-Werx Innovation and Mobility Hub in downtown Fresno.

Little, the chamber’s president, said hardware is being loaded this week into the Chevy Bolts that are the fleet’s initial vehicles. Meanwhile, officials are still working out how to secure charging stations that have already been vandalized by metal thieves.

“We’re looking at rolling them (vehicles) out to the Fresno Housing Authority, but we’re going to go with their cue, if they’re ready to go. So I’m hoping next week we can have those out there,” Little told GV Wire on Monday.

The fleet of 14 Chevy Bolts will be positioned at five public housing sites in southwest Fresno — Sequoia Courts Terrace, Sierra Terrace, Yosemite Village, Fairview Heights Terrace, and Legacy Commons — and also The Hub at the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce on Fulton Street and the site of the future high-speed rail station.

The cars are being purchased through a $7.7 million grant from the California Strategic Growth Council’s Transformative Climate Communities’ Transform Fresno project. The Clean Shared Mobility Network was one of the earliest projects funded through the program, Little said.

For more information on the vehicle and bicycle ride-share programs, go to https://www.gobizwerx.com.

Improving Clean Transportation Options

The goal is to provide clean transportation options to residents in disadvantaged neighborhoods who have struggled to go grocery shopping or get to a medical appointment. Little said putting the vehicles out into neighborhoods will help residents become more familiar with the program, as will “embedding” staffers such as Keshia Thomas, who is helping to coordinate communications and who lives in southwest Fresno. Thomas is a Fresno Unified School Board member.

Little said she worked with a Stockton-based vehicle-sharing organization, MíoCar, which already has a green-vehicle car-share program up and running, in developing the Fresno car-sharing program.

Residents will need to submit an application on the program’s website or through a smartphone app, neither of which were yet operational on Wednesday. The approval process can take two to three days, after which members will need to complete a 15- to 20-minute orientation by phone or video.

Members won’t need auto insurance — that will be included in the rental, Little said. But they will need a valid driver’s license and credit, debit, or prepaid card to make a reservation. They won’t need a key to open the car door — their smartphone, with the EV-Werx app, will serve as the key.

The cost will be $4 per hour for up to eight hours, or $35 per day, up to 14 hours. The program’s flyer notes that prices are subject to change.

Little acknowledged that residents who don’t have cars frequently also don’t have driver’s licenses and might not be able to take advantage of the program. But those residents might be able to pair up with neighbors who do have a driver’s license, she said.

“If people need a ride, we will get them a ride,” she said.

Procuring Fleet Takes Time

The program’s roll-out has taken a bit longer than Little initially anticipated. In March 2022 when the program was announced, she had optimistically forecast that the first cars would be ready for use in a couple of months. But she soon learned that acquiring a fleet of cars and establishing a car-sharing program needs to be done incrementally so as not to waste money.

Little gives a lot of credit to Hedrick’s Chevrolet in Clovis for helping her learn the ropes of fleet procurement and putting in the EV car orders. She’s ordering another five Bolts from Hedrick’s.

But the fleet won’t all be Chevrolets. Little says she’s now researching Nissan Leafs and also is ordering four Teslas, one of which will be used by EV-Werx as a promotional vehicle. Why Teslas, which are more expensive than Bolts?

“I’m just following through what was written in the grant,” she said.

Five years ago when the grant was awarded, Teslas cost over $100,000, but since then the cost has come down and now the Model Ys are only slightly more expensive than Chevy Bolts, which have gotten more expensive in recent years, Little said.

Dr. Cassandra Little with electric bikes at Biz-Werx in downtown Fresno. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Electric Bikes Also Coming

The grant for the Clean Mobility Network also includes funds for electric bicycles, and Little says that fleet should be up and running soon.

They were scheduled to arrive this week, and Little said that once the stickers have been applied, the battery-powered bikes will be ready to rent out, 25 at a time.

EV-Werx is teaming up with the Downtown Fresno Partnership to promote the Biz-Bikes Bikeshare program, she said.

Members will pay $25 a month for 60 minutes use daily, with 25 cents per minute for overages and no unlock fee. In the Transformative Climate Communities’ service area of downtown and southwest Fresno, the charge is $4 per month for 60 minutes daily, with 5 cents per minute for overages and no unlock fee.

Casual riders will pay $1 to unlock the bike and 25 cents per minute.

E-Vans Starting Next Year

The third part of the ridesharing program is Van Werx, but that’s still a work in progress, Little said.

Eventually, there will be two electric vans available that residents can call on for rides around town, including to doctor’s appointments, she said.

“We will have two ADA shuttles for van-hailing and van-pooling,” she said. “I’m hoping in the new year to at least procure one of those.”

 

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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