Over the weekend, the city unveiled five electric cars that you soon will be able to rent as part of a long-planned BlueLA Carsharing program. The vehicles are based at Seventh and Bonnie Brae streets in Westlake.
The unveiling showcased the first of 40 such stations scheduled to open by the end of the year. The program, run by BlueLA under the supervision of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), took flight as a result of efforts by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of L.A., whose legislation helped to divert $1.7 million in cap-and-trade polluter cash into its rollout. The idea is to put clean, zero-emission options in dense, lower-income areas that are gasping for cleaner air.
“We have to put sustainability at the center of everything we do in Los Angeles — and putting more drivers in electric vehicles is a good way to clean our air,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
“The focus is on disadvantaged neighborhoods” where folks often stay local, says Tim Frisbie, communications and policy director at the Shared-Use Mobility Center. “We're aiming at the neighborhoods that have the most air pollution.”
The program is aiming at families that need short-trip transportation on-the-fly. As such, the cars won't come cheap. They cost 20 cents per minute — 15 cents for low-income users — on top of a $10-per-month membership. Nonmembers can rent the cars “at higher rates,” according to the nonprofit Shared-Use Mobility Center, which is helping to administer the program.
Full membership rates add up to $12 an hour, or a whopping $288 a day — and that's with your government's dollars subsidizing the deal. However, the cars aren't really meant for summer road trips. They're intended for use as “last-mile” grocery getters, organizers say. “It is not set up to be a daily rental,” says Pamela Diaz, spokeswoman for the California Air Resources Board, which is facilitating much of the funding for the program. Rentals will be limited to three hours. However, for the first nine months of the program everyone can get three hours of car time for $9, she says.
Another caveat for the program is that only a select group of beta testers can currently rent the vehicles. Frisbie of the Mobility Center says the rest of Los Angeles can preregister for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of these EVs “later this summer.” “Full registration will open later this summer once more car-share stations come online,” Frisbie said via email.
Diaz of the California Air Resources Board says the general public can start renting at the end of August, at least according to plans, and that 50 cars, connected to various new base stations, will roll out in September. “There are few parking spots available, there's a lot of research to be done and there's a lot of paperwork involved in order to locate these charging stations,” she says.
Asked if a goal of opening 39 other car-sharing bases by the end of the year was a bit rosy, she says, “We have to keep our optimism high.”
The next base stations with vehicles attached are planned for Westlake, Pico Union, Koreatown, Echo Park and downtown, Diaz says. The $40,000 EVs (which were listed at $25,000 when they launched) are Bolloré Bluecars, designed by Italy's Pininfarina, perhaps best known for creating some of car culture's most iconic body lines for the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
Members of the public can suggest where other base stations for these Italian whips should be located by weighing in online. The program will ultimately roll out 100 vehicles and 200 so-called charge points. Users will have to return them to one of the 40 base stations.
“In the city that defined American car culture, this program is helping write a new chapter by bringing electric cars directly into neighborhoods that need them the most,” California Air Resources Board member Hector De La Torre said in a statement.