Electric vehicle car-sharing programs are growing in municipalities

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The Yomiuri Shimbun

More and more municipalities are partnering with car-sharing service operators to use electric vehicles while renting them to residents on weekends and public holidays.

In the next fiscal year, the Ministry of Environment will begin providing full grants to municipalities that have implemented a carbon-free car-sharing project advocated by the ministry, and it plans to support the construction of facilities electric charging station using electricity produced from renewable energies. sources such as solar energy.

Promote EVs

The Itabashi Ward Office purchased an electric vehicle in 2020 to replace one of its three official vehicles for the Environmental Policy Division. About twenty employees of the division use it by reserving the vehicle on the site of a car-sharing service operator. The fee is paid by the neighborhood office, and when there are no reservations, residents can also use the service.

In early September, a 35-year-old woman used the vehicle for an hour to run errands. “It’s quiet and has good acceleration,” she said.

Although electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than gasoline-powered vehicles, they are more expensive than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

The neighborhood office believes that car sharing will make it easy for people who are hesitant to buy an electric vehicle to use one, and now intends to promote the electric vehicle sharing service so that more residents can drive the car and discover its performance.

“It is only an experiment that we will continue until 2023, but it has been well received by the locals,” said a division official. “We are considering extending the trial period.”

Extension of grants

The Ministry of the Environment plans to extend grants to municipalities that strive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by introducing the electric vehicle car-sharing scheme.

To receive subsidies, municipalities must partner with car-sharing service companies to introduce electric vehicles for public use. The vehicles are used by the municipalities during the week and are made available to local residents on weekends and public holidays.

Electricity for charging should in principle be provided by solar panels installed on the roofs of municipal office buildings.

The ministry aims to reduce CO2 emissions by encouraging people to limit their consumption of electricity produced by burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

The plan also includes using electric vehicles as battery storage, building on lessons learned from disasters that cause large-scale power outages.

The ministry included 1 billion yen in last year’s supplementary budget to subsidize the deployment of electric vehicles and the installation of solar panels and charging equipment for municipalities. It hopes to get an additional 1 billion yen in the budget next fiscal year to handle about 500 cases over the next five years.

“If more vehicles are charged using renewable energy sources, electric vehicles will become an even more environmentally friendly means of transportation,” a ministry official said. “They will also serve as much-needed storage batteries during a disaster.”

Pricing issues

However, there are still problems to be solved before such a system can become widespread.

With car sharing, a fee is charged each time a vehicle is used, and the longer the vehicle is rented, the more expensive it is.

The city government of Sakai launched a car-sharing program of its electric vehicles on a trial basis in 2012, but terminated the contract with the car-sharing service operator in 2016.

According to the city government, the cost over the four years was twice that of buying a gas-powered vehicle. Also, vehicles at the time took so long to recharge that there were often instances where vehicles weren’t available when needed.

“If electric vehicles take hold in society and their production increases, their prices will fall and the number of charging stations will increase. It will even become possible to charge them while they are parked at their destination,” said Naotsugu Mihori, a journalist specializing in electric vehicles. “We are in a transition period before electric vehicles become widely available and can reduce stress on the environment even by using electric vehicles in combination with hybrid and gasoline vehicles. Related efforts should be encouraged.

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