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Charging stations for e-cars are becoming more prevalent in Hood River, such as this new one at Walmart, installed this summer.

An electric car-share program is set to start a 3-year test run in Hood River in Spring 2020.

Forth, a nonprofit trade association based in Portland, recently received a $548,540 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the pilot program, formally called the Clean Rural Shared Electric Mobility (CRuSE) Project.

The grant was part of the Department of Energy’s goal to research new mobility services in rural America, and, in total, the Department of Energy granted $59 million between 43 projects nationwide to promote advanced vehicle technologies research.

“At DOE, we support a broad portfolio of technologies, generating the knowledge needed for industry to further develop and commercialize affordable, secure, and reliable transportation systems,” said Mark W. Menezes, U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary of Energy, in an official release.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) car-sharing can serve rural communities in a financially sustainable way that also benefits low-income residents, tourists and local businesses.

“Roundtrip car-sharing has been well established in many urban centers, but car-sharing is virtually unknown outside of major urban centers,” said a Forth press release. “Rural and low-income communities can benefit most from carsharing services, due to lack of density to support traditional transit, biking, or other options.”

Forth has stated that they will work with the City of Hood River, Hood River Columbia Area Transit, the Port of Hood River and Ride Connection, along with several community organizations such as Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation and Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, to assess transportation needs and establish car-sharing at optimal parking locations. PEV Charging installations will be facilitated by Pacific Power and OpConnect.

“With a combination of typical small-town living, nearby agricultural work and tourism, Hood River presents an ideal opportunity to test, assess, and hone how best to offer an electric car-sharing service, in a rural setting, to benefit drivers from multiple sectors,” said the press release.

Five Honda Clarity EVs, on loan from Honda Civic, will be stationed throughout Hood River at affordable housing sites, tourist destinations and the city center; and Envoy Technologies, a California-based company that specializes in shared electric vehicles, will supply an app for the program. 

Through the app, which Forth stated will also have a Spanish version, users will be able to reserve and access vehicles, paying by either the minute or the hour, but alternate payment mechanisms and tiered pricing structures will also be available.

If successful, Forth stated that the CRuSE project has the potential to bring PEV car sharing services to rural communities nationwide.

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