Evie is the first municipally-owned electric car share program in the country! To find out what it’s like to use the service and how it might fit into your life, we’re riding along with Madi Johnson on her first Evie trip. We’re also joined in the studio by James Vierling from HOURCAR to give more background about Evie.
- 00:00 | Intro
- 01:01 | Ian’s car share story
- 04:16 | Madi’s transportation story
- 10:07 | Differences between Evie and HOURCAR
- 14:37 | Starting our journey
- 17:59 | “There’s nothing super futuristic about it”
- 18:59 | Driving to Fleet Farm
- 22:07 | The municipal ownership model
- 27:16 | The home area
- 33:20 | Making fewer, consolidated trips
- 36:52 | Strategically placing charging stations
- 38:15 | The car’s handling
- 43:43 | Long distance trips
- 47:55 | Unloading
- 50:08 | Plugging in
- 52:26 | The invoice
- 54:47 | Outro
Photos from the journey
Connect with us!
Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.
This episode was hosted and edited by Ian R Buck, with transcript by the indominable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest booker, and technical assistance is provided by the super professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work they do, please consider donating. We really appreciate it!
The Streets.mn Podcast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. Feel free to republish the episode as long as you don’t alter it and you aren’t profiting from it.
Madi: [00:00:00] I do find it really funny that we’re just literally in bumper to bumper traffic. Why wouldn’t people want this way of life? Don’t these bikers know what they’re missing?
[00:00:13] [laughing, music]
Ian: [00:00:18] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we use transportation and land use to make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Frogtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am your host, Ian R. Buck. If you live in the Twin Cities, you’ve probably noticed the fleet of Evie car shares that have appeared around town in the last year. Today, we’re going to try out the service by riding along with my friend Madi Johnson on her first Evie trip. Throughout the episode, we’ll also hear from James Vierling, who’s the head of growth marketing and communications at HourCar, which is the company that runs the Evie service. Find show notes and a transcript of the episode at [https://streets.mn]. I’m particularly excited about this episode because car share services hold a particularly dear place in my heart, as I can personally attest to how effective it can be in helping people achieve a car-light or car-free lifestyle. You know, when I was in college, I didn’t own a car. I went to college in in small town Morris, Minnesota. But I knew that when I graduated, you know, I was probably going to get a job somewhere in the Twin Cities. And, you know, I was just going to have to buy a car in order to commute there and like, you know, because that’s what you do. But when I when I did move back down here, I happened to find a job that was just a mile from where I was living. So that, like, cut my entire commute out of the equation as a necessary, like, car trip. And so that left that that allowed me to start exploring, like, you know, biking to more places, taking the bus, more places. But there were still a few types of trips like grocery runs that I was still relying on cars for. And fortunately at the time I graduated in 2015, Car2Go existed here in the Twin Cities. And so that became a really effective and easy way for me to be able to, and other people in my household, to be able to do those necessary trips with cars. And of course, over time, you know, I learned more and more about how to haul more stuff on my bike. And so I started relying on the Car2Go cars less and less to the point that when they finally did leave town and eventually went out of business, you know, it was something that I had already learned how to live without. So I really, really appreciate the role that car share services can play in allowing people to reduce the number of cars that they that they have at home. And, you know, think more critically about what trips they need to be taking in cars. So when I heard that HourCar was going to be augmenting their existing hub based service with a free floating fleet of electric vehicles, I was very, very excited. Of course, I did end up allowing my license to expire on my birthday last year before they fully launched the service. So I was never able to try it out myself as a member. But I went and grabbed my friend Madi Johnson, who was was trying it out for the first time in early summer of 2022 and and we took a ride together. So let’s go back in time now to June 10th of 2022 and and ask Madi why she’s interested in trying out this Evie car share service.
Madi: [00:04:16] Well, you know, like a lot of Midwesterners, it was like I was driving since I was 16 because my school was 26 miles away. So I drove my sister and I 50 miles every day to get to school and back. And then I went to England. I like to say I went there, a liberal, and came back a radical because things are just different over there and a really fun way, including I lived there for three years and never drove a car during that time and never needed a car.
Ian: [00:04:51] So what kinds of things were they doing over there that made that possible for you?
Madi: [00:04:55] You know, bike, walk, bus and train. Now, it could have been easier. It could have definitely been cheaper. The bus was cheap, but the train man, sometimes I had to make calls about whether or not to go to my friend’s house because like “$15 just to go to the next village?” But but other than that, the bus was really affordable for students. And, you know, it was how people got around. And I have a friend whose she must be getting on 30. She’s never had a car and she probably never will drive a car. She’s Swiss, not British. But, you know, you just can live your whole life. And not only is there no judgment, there’s really no assumption that you would ever need a car if you don’t want one. It’s not like this assumed life milestone. It’s not even an assumed part of life in many European countries. So that kind of shifted my view. But then I came back and I had to have a car, so. Actually, the first time I started using the bus system was when I had a bad car break-down a few years ago, and I got a lot closer to my grandma during that time because every time I was waiting for the bus, not sure if it was coming, I’d call my grandma and talk to her about whatever nonsense she was interested in that day, and we ended up being really close. So I think that you get to see the world a lot differently when you’re not always rushing behind the wheel of a vehicle. But the reason I’m doing Evie now is because my little Honda broke down. That was a 20 year old vehicle. I remember once I was having problems with my, well, my check engine light kept coming on, and I got them to do, like, a pressure test. They were like, well, you know, it’s an emissions problem. I was like “Oh, what does that mean?” They’re like, “Well, you’d be fine. You’d only want to get it fixed if you cared about the environment. It would be 300 bucks.” I was like…
Ian: [00:07:02] Do they… do they know who they’re talking to?
Madi: [00:07:04] I know I was like, “Well, when you put it like that way to put it like that guy’s pretty funny.” And I thought, well, you know, a lot of people are excited about electric vehicles and we need electric vehicles. But the real climate solution is to also have fewer vehicles, which not everyone knows yet. But we got to reduce the actual number of vehicles on the road to stop climate change. And so because I work from home, I thought, “Do I really need to buy a new car?” Especially it’s summer in Minnesota. Can get away with biking. But the big question for me was, how will I feed my chickens?
Ian: [00:07:48] A universal question.
Madi: [00:07:49] I know. I know. It’s a very important question because even though I live in the city and I can bike most places, I do a lot of projects. And so there are some things that you just can’t bike with and you can’t take on the bus. Like, you know, probably hard to take a few sheets of four by eight plywood on the bus or on your bike. So essenitally I decided, “Oh, maybe I could get away with Evie,” because the important things for me on the, the times where I’m looking at a vehicle, I don’t need a vehicle every day. I maybe I need a vehicle every two weeks. But, you know, it’s like how many hundreds of pounds of chicken food can you fit? How many? Two by fours can you fit? Can I fit a rain barrel in the back seat? You know, these are the important questions for “Can Evie be enough on the days where I can get away with something other than biking?”
Ian: [00:08:43] Mm hmm. And we’re going to answer some of those questions today, hopefully.
Madi: [00:08:47] Yeah, I’m really excited to answer those questions. But as I understand it, the only vehicles in Evie fleets are [Chevrolet] Bolts. And so you don’t you can’t go for a larger vehicle.
Ian: [00:09:02] Yeah. So I mean, that’s the thing, right. Is that in the in the electric vehicle fleet, it’s all Chevy Bolts. But when you’re an Evie member, you’re also an HourCar member. And they have a variety of different gas powered vehicles in the HourCar fleet, which is still like the hub based model.
Madi: [00:09:22] Right.
Ian: [00:09:23] Yeah.
Madi: [00:09:23] But I just, you know, I’m a progressive, so it’s important to me to virtue signal as much as possible.
Ian: [00:09:29] [laughing]
Madi: [00:09:30] So I only wanted to go for the electric vehicles. No, I’m kidding. I mean, I do really care about my carbon footprint, but I think at the end of the day, it’s like if you’re making 90% fewer trips, but one of those trips, your only option is to do an internal combustion engine. You know, that’s that’s still a net positive for climate and for air quality.
Ian: [00:09:52] I mean, that is an incredible improvement over like the lifestyles of most people in the Twin Cities.
Madi: [00:09:58] Right.
Ian: [00:09:59] So yeah.
Ian: [00:10:07] Of all of the members. Whenever you sign up for HourCar, you become a member of both HourCar and Evie.
James: [00:10:13] Right. Right.
Ian: [00:10:14] But there is some difference in like the experience of using them.
James: [00:10:17] Yes. So the easiest way that I have in marketing the differences between HourCar and Evie car share is I compare HourCar to kind of like living at home with your mom and dad. So you have to ask for the station wagon on Tuesday from 5 to 8 has to come back. You gotta park it in the same spot where mom parks her car, things along that line Where Evie is a little bit more free float. So, growing up myself it was always like a bicycle and I would just ride my bike and leave it at my friend’s house. I mean, in that analogy I would have to go back and get it eventually. But sure, bikes in the neighborhood kind of just floating around with all the kids. And so Evie is a little bit more that way where it’s more spontaneous, leave it really in an approved parking space and you’re done. So HourCar, you can book out six months in advance where Evie is more of a you have like 15 minutes to, to get there and find it.
Ian: [00:11:11] Oh right. Yeah. There aren’t any long term reservations for Evies. I hadn’t thought of that angle.
James: [00:11:17] Yes, yes. Yeah. It’s very I don’t want to say social, but it’s very like, hey, yeah, let’s go meet up with friends and have coffee or quick grab lunch or something more like that where HourCar is more designed for like a top use. Like top use case scenario was during the COVID shutdowns. HourCar got used a lot by people that had to go make a doctor’s appointment or had a COVID test that they had to be there at a certain time and so the use cases are quite different, but having them together in the same back-end is kind of like the dream scenario in the world of car share.
Ian: [00:11:54] Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Most most companies that offer this kind of thing only offer one or the other and not both.
James: [00:12:01] Right.
Ian: [00:12:02] Yeah.
James: [00:12:02] So.
Ian: [00:12:03] The other major difference, you know, that people are going to immediately, immediately notice is that all of the HourCar fleet are internal combustion engine cars and the Evie ones are all Chevy Bolts. Electric cars.
James: [00:12:19] Right now.
Ian: [00:12:20] Yeah.
James: [00:12:20] In this moment.
Ian: [00:12:21] Yeah yeah.
James: [00:12:21] By the end of summer that will be different.
Ian: [00:12:23] Okay.
James: [00:12:23] So HourCar has what we call the Multifamily Project and that is bringing electric vehicles at low-income and market-rate apartments across the Twin Cities.
Ian: [00:12:34] Okay.
James: [00:12:34] So right now we have six, six sites selected.
Ian: [00:12:38] Are those are those hubs that already exist or are those are.
James: [00:12:40] These are all brand new.
Ian: [00:12:41] Okay.
James: [00:12:41] So by the end of that program, we will be adding fifty, five-zero, electric vehicles to the HourCar fleet. So a hub based service, but we’ll be electric vehicles. We currently have around 48, I believe, either ICE [internal combustion engine] or hybrid vehicles and not HourCar fleet. So by adding the 50 all electric over half of the HourCar fleet will be nice a mixture of those two. And then the Evie service will be getting a mixture of right now Chevy Bolts, and then we will be adding some Nissan Leafs.
Ian: [00:13:13] Okay.
James: [00:13:13] To the to the service and…
Ian: [00:13:15] Which is also a four-door, five-person sedan.
James: [00:13:18] Yeah.
Ian: [00:13:19] Okay.
James: [00:13:19] Or hatchback, wagon…
Ian: [00:13:20] Yeahyeah.
James: [00:13:22] And then Nissan, originally we had done an order of 100 Leafs or. Yeah, 100 bolts and then 70 Nissan Leafs. Nissan was able to supply us with around 20 of the Leafs. So we’re still working to secure another 50 vehicles to get up to the 170 count that we need to operate in the 35 square mile home area.
Ian: [00:13:43] Yeah. Yeah. Is there I mean, I’m not really familiar with like what kinds of electric trucks there are available, but like because I imagine that one of the advantages of the HourCar fleet is that, you know, people can choose like, oh, I just need a small sedan or I like I need a pickup truck for this trip or whatever, right?
James: [00:14:01] Yeah. Yeah. That’s I mean, that’s the beauty of what HourCar offers. Initially, HourCar only offered the Prius for the first year or two of operation, and then they quickly realized that the diversity of the fleet is kind of like what makes that system work really well.
Ian: [00:14:17] Right.
James: [00:14:18] Whereas with with the Evie, like I said before, it’s just more impromptu trips. So it’s more about just the ability to get there more quickly, I guess.
Ian: [00:14:27] Yeah. Yeah.
James: [00:14:28] So…
Madi: [00:14:28] Well in the process, you know, it only took five days to get my application approved. And it was online. It was all online. I actually can’t believe how quick and easy it was to get registered to go operate a vehicle. Pretty wild. Woo hoo! Okay, step one. Here we go. Opening the app. So let’s see, where is the nearest vehicle on the road? It looks like a block and a half to the east and…
Ian: [00:15:08] Like four blocks south?
Madi: [00:15:11] Yeah. So I click on it. It says that this vehicle has 152 miles on the battery right now, and it would take us 8 minutes to walk there. So then if I hit reserve this car, it says it’s reserved for 15 minutes. So we have 15 minutes to make it over, which means we could probably get away with walking and not biking.
Ian: [00:15:33] Yes. Yeah, I think that sounds ideal because then we don’t have to worry about like locking our bikes somewhere and leaving them for half a day or whatever.
Madi: [00:15:40] So at first when I signed up for Evie the other day, I thought that you could only pick up a vehicle from a charging station. Turns out I’m wrong. You don’t have to bring it back to the charging station, although supposedly you get credit if you do. But so you can actually pick them up anywhere that’s in the range that someone else left it. And so I was seeing one that was just two and a half blocks around the corner. And so I went to look a couple of days ago and I couldn’t actually find it. I wandered the street and it definitely wasn’t there. So either the map was poorly calibrated or somebody had put it in their garage.
Ian: [00:16:22] Oh!
Madi: [00:16:23] I’m not sure if that’s a thing, but so I share this story because I’m very curious to see if we make it to the end of this trip and have a vehicle or have to look for another vehicle. That would be kind of fun. So, fingers crossed.
Ian: [00:16:38] When you say “this trip” you mean the walking portion?
Madi: [00:16:40] Yeah, I mean, the walking portion of this trip.
Ian: [00:16:42] It’d be wild for us to get to Fleet Farm and back and be like, “Where’s the car?”
Madi: [00:16:46] Yeah. So weird how this all this chicken food teleport at home. We just.
Ian: [00:16:52] We just floated on the highway.
Madi: [00:16:53] Yeah. Levitated all the way back from Oakdale.
Madi: [00:16:58] Wow.
Ian: [00:16:58] Is it on, Thomas? Ah! There it is.
Madi: [00:17:02] The exciting part of “Will we see it?” Please check the vehicle and report any new damage. That’s pretty good.
Ian: [00:17:11] Looks good to me.
Madi: [00:17:14] Okay. Oh, it just unlocked. Ooh. Rate vehicle’s cleanliness. All right, we get it this time. Cleaner than my car’s ever been.
Ian: [00:17:24] Well, we’re about to haul some chicken feed in this thing, so who knows what it’s going to be like after we’re done.
Madi: [00:17:30] So all I had to do was click Start Trip and the car’s starting on its own. It unlocked when I was in range. It’s pretty. That was pretty slick. All I’m saying, they’re not even paying me to say this. Good job playing the Current [89.3 FM KCMP], whoever was here last. Very proud of you. Oh, my gosh. How do I turn it off, though? Okay.
Ian: [00:17:55] There we go.
Madi: [00:17:57] Oh, someone get this AC on.
Ian: [00:17:58] Yeah. Wait, why is it looking for wifi? What is going on? Cars are so wild these days.
James: [00:18:11] So this is a great way for people to get into it and realize that it’s a normal it’s a normal car. There’s nothing super futuristic about it. It’s not this confusing, minimalist Tesla thing that people are afraid of. And so we’ve gotten a lot of really good comments from people. They think that they’re fun to drive. Probably one of the coolest ones was we had an elderly citizen saying who, basically, sent in saying that he was he he thought that electric cars were beyond his age, and that he he wasn’t ready yet for it.
Ian: [00:18:44] [laughing] Sure.
James: [00:18:44] And then he got in one and loved it. And so when we did the recall and we had to take them off the streets, he would call in and just say, like, “Where’s the cars? I want to go drive one? So it was cute.
Ian: [00:18:59] So the screen is giving us like a bunch of charts on like the last person’s like driving behavior. Were they efficient in their driving. And I love that we get to like judge the last person who was in this car.
Madi: [00:19:13] Were they efficient?
Ian: [00:19:15] Their technique it says plus 11.2 which sounds good. It’s it’s towards the green side. Yeah. So on this the display that’s directly in front of the driver, we have on the left side a battery meter that’s telling us we have 184 miles left, out of a maximum of 225. Big circle in the center. We’ve got telling us that we are currently going six miles an hour on the interstate.
Madi: [00:19:49] Just add more lanes.
Ian: [00:19:50] Right? Just one more lane.
Madi: [00:19:51] If we had one more lane, we’d be going 90. I do find it really funny that we’re just literally in bumper to bumper traffic. Why wouldn’t people want this way of life? Don’t these bikers know what they’re missing?
Ian: [00:20:12] Honestly, like. When when the interstate is backed up like this, I would feel perfectly safe just zipping around on a bike and, like, pissing people off.
Madi: [00:20:22] I know.
Ian: [00:20:22] It’d be great.
Madi: [00:20:25] I couldn’t agree more.
Ian: [00:20:26] The cops won’t even be able to catch me because they’d be stuck in traffic.
Madi: [00:20:29] I know!
Ian: [00:20:32] So I’m not even saying this to be snarky. I legitimately think that it’s taking us longer to get past downtown Saint Paul than it would have taken me to. Like, bike past downtown Saint Paul from your house.
Madi: [00:20:42] Oh, yeah, I completely agree. Yeah. With it. Taking an hour and 7 minutes to bike to Oakdale though. I just thought it wasn’t the best way to carry multiple 50-pound bags.
Ian: [00:20:55] Yeah. Yeah, I agree. In total, the trip would definitely take much, much longer and be a lot more effort. And yeah.
Madi: [00:21:04] But I really enjoy I really enjoyed biking. I enjoyed a lot more than I realized I would. And there’s nothing like becoming a full time biker to really just confirm what I already believed. Which is 40% fewer people should have driver’s license.
Ian: [00:21:22] Yeah.
Madi: [00:21:23] At least. And what I love is right by my house because I get across the street and then University [Ave] and then the light rail line and then the other side of University and then the other street to get to, ironically the Evie charging station, it’s like, “Wow! In the span of about 60 seconds, I could be struck and killed by eight different vehicles. Am I in the right lane?”
Ian: [00:21:53] No, you’re in the left lane. Ho ho ho ho ho.
Madi: [00:21:57] Plus.
James: [00:22:07] The City of Saint Paul is really taking ownership of this whole concept. And so it’s the city of Saint Paul in partnership with Minneapolis, HourCar and Xcel Energy… Cities – both of the cities have put forth grant money or funding for the Evie spot charging. So the on street charging stations are municipally owned by the cities. The cars are technically owned by the city of Saint Paul, through a lot of funding, through a lot of different sources. One of the biggest is the Department of Energy, courtesy of the Volkswagen diesel scandal, which that money has to go into clean air initiatives, which is why these are all electric.
Ian: [00:22:50] Yeah.
James: [00:22:50] And then Xcel Energy is providing the renewable power to all of the stations and thus the cars through a subsidized grant. So. It’s. Yeah. So it’s mostly the city of Saint Paul that owns the Chargers and well, at least their portion of the Chargers. And then Minneapolis owns their portion of the Chargers. So when you see the network size and go, how, how come Saint Paul has a few more than Minneapolis is, Saint Paul had the ability to put a little bit more money into the project, which is.
Ian: [00:23:23] That’s unusual!
James: [00:23:24] It’s unusual. But Mayor Carter and Russ Stark have really taken ownership of this entire network of what’s been built out, and it’s been like a prime goal.
Ian: [00:23:36] Yeah.
James: [00:23:38] And so. And if you’ve ever worked with either of the two cities, it was very much so this way with Car2Go as well was when Car2Go approached Saint Paul to expand in, Saint Paul basically said after they voted yes now open the word document and hit find replace all and remove the word Minneapolis and put in the word Saint Paul and we’ll just take it that way. And it’s very much so the same way where Saint Paul might created a lot of the working for this network in Minneapolis said, yeah, just replace the word Saint Paul with Minneapolis and we’ll we’ll do it too.
Ian: [00:24:10] There we go.
James: [00:24:10] Yeah. So it’s views of the Twin Cities.
Ian: [00:24:14] It sounds like it worked out better than the the shared request for proposal that they put out for bike shares this year.
James: [00:24:21] That’s that’s very interesting to watch.
Madi: [00:24:24] Yes.
Ian: [00:24:25] I can’t believe that we don’t have like a shared bike share system across the both of the Twin Cities this year. That’s a that’s a different episode entirely.
James: [00:24:36] Yes.
Ian: [00:24:36] Oh, man. Yeah. Okay. So so. I did not know that the that the cars themselves are actually owned by the city of Saint Paul. That’s really cool. But then, obviously. The system, like the the reservation system and everything is run by HourCar because that’s the expertise that that your company brings to the table.
James: [00:24:58] Right. Right. So we we have the entire backend system. We have we provide the insurance for the cars. We actually pay for the charging of the cars. Like the city of Saint Paul, really, it was through their their grant in their funding processes that we were able to secure what what we have so far.
Ian: [00:25:15] Mm hmm.
James: [00:25:16] Which is why the cars have, like, Stat of Minnesota license plate on them, like, like black and white state-owned license plates, like the normal blue and everything else. So. Yeah, they’re it’s the the service as of right now is America’s largest municipally-owned car-share service.
Ian: [00:25:35] Nice. So, yeah.
James: [00:25:37] Yeah.
Ian: [00:25:39] That feels real good.
James: [00:25:40] It’s. It’s a really cool, interesting partnership that I don’t know, like I said before, achieving this somewhere else, I don’t know if it would have really even been possible. So it really is like a very local system that like I don’t think like the city of Chicago could do or Madison or Milwaukee or like it’s just all the right puzzle pieces collecting in the.
Ian: [00:26:02] Right.
James: [00:26:02] Right place at the right time.
Ian: [00:26:03] Is this Twin Cities exceptionalism?
James: [00:26:07] I think a little bit. I mean. We… Car2Go did a lot of the advocacy for the permit for for free-float car share and then shortly like a few months after had the close operations here. So I think like having that system and that framework already in place and then being able to apply that now to something that is happening, I think it’s a really cool story that I don’t know if it can be fully replicated in other places, but we are being looked at by other communities around the US and I believe parts of Canada as well. How do we take what they get there and apply it here? Yeah, so.
Madi: [00:26:48] Sorry. Just parking here. Can you see if I’m in the lines?
Ian: [00:26:57] Maybe? Yes, you are.
Madi: [00:26:58] Oh, well.
Ian: [00:26:59] We have parked!
Madi: [00:27:00] This is very exciting.
Ian: [00:27:02] Yeah, let’s see. I don’t think I need to bring the microphone inside. So I think I’m going to leave this phone up here.
Ian: [00:27:16] So the being a free-floating fleet, you know, where people can leave them at any street legal parking spot, essentially, within the bounds of like the home area. What what is the home area?
James: [00:27:32] The home area is not a very simplified line, so to explain the whole area. So the entire project is based on what’s now called areas of environmental concern.
Ian: [00:27:44] Okay.
James: [00:27:45] So generally you’re looking at in Minnesota, the number one greenhouse gas causing agent is emissions from the personally owned automobile. So your normal Camry and your normal Taurus or whatever you’re driving around town, those are causing the most greenhouse gas emissions here. People that are typically low income and or, the terms called BIPOC, so Black, Indigenous, People Of Color, generally tend to live in those low income areas that are most affected by the greenhouse gas emissions. So the Evie Spot Network’s real focus is on trying to bring forth renewable energy and clean air transportation solutions to those communities that are most impacted. And so right now, the whole area is based around communities within those areas that are most affected. And so technically it’s areas of environmental concern, 50 or lower. So 50% of the area mean income or lower, so. Right. Saint Paul, unfortunately, has probably one of the highest low income. I know they’re in like the most lowest income county in the state.
James: [00:28:57] And so Saint Paul has has a lot more of an area affected by this as opposed to areas of Minneapolis, which is partly why, like, it’s a painful touch. I know, but like, why Longfellow isn’t really part of the home service area. From a car-share perspective, Longfellow is totally like the right clientele for this.
Ian: [00:29:18] Right.
James: [00:29:18] With a focus on low income and BIPOC and fixing greenhouse gas emissions. That that neighborhood, for example, which we’ve gotten a lot of requests saying, can we expand over there? And then so there’s that kind of a limit. We also had to deal with the issue of we receive so much grant money and we want to have a charger within a certain radius of everywhere throughout the home area. Sure. So. By having that number and then by having the free float standard of around 3 to 5 cars per square mile for the density. We had to unfortunately have to pick what lines we have and what lines we don’t have.
Ian: [00:29:58] Right.
James: [00:29:58] So.
Ian: [00:29:59] So is.. Are there plans to expand as you get more, you know, resources to to make a larger fleet and get more chargers?
James: [00:30:06] There are. We’re constantly applying for more funding. We know that the service area right now isn’t 100% perfect. We know that there’s some communities that could use this, or should be using this, but just aren’t part of it. So there are definitely other neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul that we would love to be able to get more funding for so that we can continue to expand and include. There are definitely other key learnings. So Car2Go during their operations, they were required to be border to border in both cities right. Which created, from our records at the time, the world’s largest free-float home area.
Ian: [00:30:47] Right.
James: [00:30:47] Which was a nightmare to handle. I mean, there’s a corner of Saint Paul that’s by Cottage Grove.
Ian: [00:30:52] It made a lot of sense to me as a customer, you know, like I understood. Oh, yes, I know where the borders are of Minneapolis in Saint Paul.
James: [00:30:59] Yes. Yes. But it was it was very large, and very expensive to operate, especially in neighborhoods that really don’t have a high interest in it. Or at least back then, things may have changed now. But yeah, we’re still looking to be growing and we would like to continue to expand. Aside from supply chain delays and things like that.
Ian: [00:31:23] Sure, sure. And product recalls and whatnot, you all went through a lot over the course of like 2021 trying to launch this this service.
James: [00:31:35] It was a lot. It was yeah. We we brought the cars out in the pilots and then a few weeks later, the full recall, which had not affected any Bolts, I believe after 2020 they had a slight adjustment to the battery. But GM changed the terminology a little bit, which then required us to pause operations. Then we had to gather all the cars back, ship them to a dealership where they had to get a new software patch installed. The software basically just reduces the stress on the battery.
Ian: [00:32:10] Yeah.
James: [00:32:10] And to date, no car that’s had the software installed has had the fire issue that the original in 2017 to 2019’s had had. And so now the cars are operating under a software patch, which is great because we’re able to be back in service again.
Ian: [00:32:27] So it is the same physical units, but with the software update.
James: [00:32:31] It’s the same physical battery right now.
Ian: [00:32:32] Yeah.
James: [00:32:33] Yes.
Ian: [00:32:33] Okay.
James: [00:32:33] Which none had been done before, but GM, out of an abundance of caution, sure had issued this. They’ve been really great to work with because we’ve been in direct conversation with them about what we do and what happens. And so right now the cars will all go back in and get the full battery replaced. Software will be updated to be fully operational again. So right now the car is getting around 180 miles of range when we charge it. And a normal situation will be back up to around like 240.
Ian: [00:33:05] Okay.
James: [00:33:06] So.
Ian: [00:33:06] Nice. Which is… way more than you’re ever going to need in the cities.
Madi: [00:33:20] Wow. Okay, so we’re back on the road. Super easy trip. People had a lot of cute comments. They. They really appreciated how many hundreds of pounds of chicken food we were loading in this small-ish car.
Ian: [00:33:34] Well, and I mean, like, the folks inside the store obviously didn’t know what kind of car we had driven here and whatever. But the amount of of chicken feed that we had on the cart prompted the question, how many chickens do you have? Like multiple times.
Madi: [00:33:48] Only 16 to 21, depending on if you count babies.
Ian: [00:33:56] I do appreciate that your strategy here is to get enough feed to last for an entire quarter so that, you know, you only have to make this trip, you know, four times a year.
Madi: [00:34:09] We fit 400 pounds easy in this car. I think we probably could have got another 200 pounds if we wanted to. And that’s if we still had a passenger so, you know, if there’s other urban farmers out there wondering if you can be an urban farmer without a car, you can get probably 500 pounds of food in a single trip if you rent an Evie for the hour.
Ian: [00:34:32] One of the things that I really appreciate about the the model of like not owning your own car, but living in an area where there’s lots of car share options available is like… It does encourage you, even though you know that there are cars all around available easily like the pricing structure incentivizes you to like figure out other ways to do your trips and then treat the car share as kind of like your last resort. Because, because it costs a lot more than like taking a bus or taking a bike or whatever. But for the once in a quarter trip out to Fleet Farm, you get 400 of chicken feed and stuff
Madi: [00:35:19] Right.
Ian: [00:35:19] You know, then it’s like, Oh yeah, this is the option. This makes sense.
Madi: [00:35:23] Well, and Evie rates by the hour are a great deal, but by the day it’s not cheap. It’s not cheap. And so I also kind of appreciate that because it I mean, I’m sure it means that people aren’t basically using these Evies as their daily commute and using it for the whole day, limiting the use for other people. You know, it’s pricey enough that it’s really good for trips and not as a replacement for a full time vehicle.
Ian: [00:35:56] Right.
Madi: [00:35:57] So so I appreciate that about the pricing structure. And then I guess I’m probably going to return this to a charger today to just see how many credits I get back for doing that because I love I love walking. Hmm. Or I could just load my bike up, and then it would take 2 minutes. To get home if I returned it to the charger. But that’s kind of what I love is that you have a lot of choice, actually. And if I was feeling lazy and I didn’t want to do any of that, I could just leave this right in front of my house and that’d be fine. But if I want five bucks…
Ian: [00:36:36] I got to have my five bucks.
Madi: [00:36:37] That’s five bucks. That’s another 30 minutes of driving, which we all know I love to do.
James: [00:36:52] But the charging network itself is also like strategically thought out. Like where do we we don’t you’re not just going to put it in front of a major store or a local boutique or something. So a lot of outreach was done for the charging network about, you know, first off, where in this community makes sense? Do we how do we avoid putting it on like Snelling Avenue or on University?
Ian: [00:37:16] Right.
James: [00:37:16] Because we don’t want people walking out into the traffic and getting hit.
Ian: [00:37:20] Yeah.
James: [00:37:21] And then beyond that, notices were sent out to local to local businesses and to the landlords themselves to say, hey, we’re looking at installing this on the side of the street next to your building or anything. Are you are there going to be problems with that? And so while the network is set up that way, where we’ve gotten neighborhood… I guess in many cases, if there was no disagreement, then it wasn’t an agreement. So we you know, that sort of a thing. There’s still, I think, one or two Evie spot locations that are still like pending their permanent placement.
Ian: [00:37:57] Mm hmm.
James: [00:37:57] But as this is like a sustainability initiative project, we also wanting to install the chargers while there’s already construction happening.
Ian: [00:38:05] Mmm.
James: [00:38:06] So we don’t want to rip up the street three times just to make this happen.
Ian: [00:38:09] Right. Right.
Ian: [00:38:15] So I’m curious to know, like, does it does it feel like does the handling feel different in this car?
Madi: [00:38:21] It feels so smooth.
Ian: [00:38:22] Okay.
Madi: [00:38:22] Yeah. I mean, just everything. I feel like brakes are always the hardest part to get used to. When you switch vehicles, like how do you brake at a good pace where you’re not, like slamming on the brakes? But I think the acceleration I can’t believe the acceleration power. I’m obviously not a big car person, so I don’t know. I don’t know the good words, but yeah, I don’t know. It just you can get to 60 real quick and it feels like it glides like just the…
Ian: [00:38:56] You’re doing a side to side like snake motion with your hand as you’re talking.
Madi: [00:39:01] Yeah. It just has a very, very smooth feeling I think.
Ian: [00:39:07] Yeah. The thing that I’ve heard everybody talk about the, you know, the car people who have all the correct words to use, they talk about like that that you have all of the torque is available to you right at the beginning and I don’t know quite what that means.
Madi: [00:39:23] Yeah, I can really feel the torque. Very good talk. Torqueage. High Torqueage. What is torque?
Ian: [00:39:45] It’s a physics thing.
Madi: [00:39:48] Sounds right.
Ian: [00:39:50] It has to do with, like, rotational force, I think. Is that a thing?
Ian: [00:40:00] Yes, indeed. So to read off of Wikipedia here. In physics and mechanics, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force. It is also referred to as the moment, moment of force, rotational force or turning effect, depending on the field of study. It represents the capability of a force to produce change in the rotational motion of the body.
Madi: [00:40:24] I do find it really funny, though, that the really the real time sync on this trip where we’re on our way back down. We must have spent ten, 15 minutes on bumper to bumper traffic on the way out because of construction.
Ian: [00:40:41] It felt like so much longer, though.
Madi: [00:40:43] I know it did. And that’s the thing. It’s funny because the less you drive, the longer traffic feels when you are in traffic like. Post-COVID to pre-COVID… being in rush hour or bumper to bumper traffic is just ten times worse. But anyway, it must have been 15 minutes on the way out, and now we’re just basically bumper to bumper on the way back.
Ian: [00:41:10] I was not expecting this as we’re coming into the city at the end of a work day, not even at the end of the workday yet. It’s 4:00. I wasn’t expecting rush hour.
Madi: [00:41:22] Yeah. So it’s kind of a it’s kind of funny that most of the time in the trip was just poor urban planning.
Ian: [00:41:31] I almost feel like getting off of the highway and getting onto University would have been faster. But I also know like that the way that you feel when you’re in traffic just often does not is not actually reflective of reality.
Madi: [00:41:52] Honestly, I just hadn’t updated my mental map. Like, I know how to get home if I go this way.
Ian: [00:42:05] I hope your chickens are very grateful.
Madi: [00:42:07] Thanks. Yeah, me too. They better be. Or they’re going to be sleeping in the. I don’t know. Where do you threaten? I’ll tell my roommate you’ll be sleeping in the chicken coop.
Ian: [00:42:23] I mean, sleeping in the doghouse sounds like it could be deadly for them. So that’s quite the that’s quite the threat.
Madi: [00:42:32] Yeah, I’m surprised that. I haven’t had a single predator kill one of my chickens. Well, it’s funny, too, because whenever there’s, like, a fox seen in the neighborhood, like, my neighbors will be, like, texting me to let me know. I’m like, thanks. I mean, I don’t know what you want me to do. I guess I could put them in my roommate’s room, but.
Ian: [00:42:57] All the chickens, all 16 to 21, one of them.
Madi: [00:43:00] Just the real vulnerable one.
Ian: [00:43:03] Wait, what? What makes one chicken more vulnerable than the next when it comes to a fox?
Madi: [00:43:08] Some of them, you go up to them and they just like squat and others run away. So I feel like they’re the ones that run away and have a better chance of surviving. But like some of them, you go up and like they’re in your way and they see you coming and they just squat and you try to nudge them with your foot to get them out of the way and they just squat more and like, not great survival mechanisms, not good instincts. Silly chickens.
Ian: [00:43:43] So one of the like in the HourCar, you know, membership system, right. There’s like different options that you can choose based on whether you expect to like use cars very, very occasionally or just like around town or like if you want to go out on longer trips every once in a while, you know, and like the pricing structures kind of incentivize those different use cases. It strikes me that the technology of like, you know, an electric car with the. Range concerns is like, okay, is that is that something that like that we’ve thought about, you know, because like. We’ve got all the charging stations that we’re rolling out here in the cities, but obviously the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis can’t control like what kinds of charging stations are built. On my way out to the boundary waters or wherever the heck I want to go.
James: [00:44:34] Right.
Ian: [00:44:35] So it is like. I don’t have answers for that, but like, Yeah. Have. Have we thought about that kind of usage case?
James: [00:44:46] There… It’s my understanding there’s there are discussions going on right now about putting electric chargers at state parks, places like that, which is for our state. If you’re going to go out to the greater state, you’re either like you might go to St. Cloud, you’re probably going to go to Duluth, maybe Mankato, Rochester. But really you are probably looking at a lot of state parks.
Ian: [00:45:06] Yeah.
James: [00:45:08] The thing with electric cars right now is a lot of. A lot of those chargers that currently exist are level two. You’ll see a lot of Teslas that are the DC-FC, or like, the fast chargers. There is a lot of discussion about it. I also know that, at least politically speaking, we were also trying to become an electric car state and a lot of the greater state Republicans are pushing back on that. There’s actually a pretty funny article out of I think it was called The Messenger out of Hibbing, where the Republican senator from that area came down here and said, “No, we don’t need to force this electric car bill. I just drove by the Chevy dealership up there and they have like over 100 white Chevy Bolts waiting to be sold.” And the news reporter kind of looked at it and said, “That’s not right for Hibbing.” And called the dealership. And they were like, “No, it’s for this program in the Twin Cities.
Ian: [00:46:04] [laughing]
James: [00:46:04] And so they were our hub. They were the dealership hosting it for us. In terms of electric charging in Greater Minnesota, that is something that it does exist is out there. Yeah, but right now what we what we tell people is to keep Evie for one way trips in town and taking HourCar, which is cheaper anyways for a day rate to go out to Greater Minnesota. Because if you’re going from like here or Duluth, you’re going to have to stop at Toby’s which has this mecca car charging area and but with a bolt you’re going to take a few hours of of charging that back up which isn’t that much fun. So.
Ian: [00:46:44] Right, right.
James: [00:46:45] Yeah. So right now…
Ian: [00:46:46] But you did say that like, you know, the HourCar fleet is being like, you know, phased in more and more electric cars as part of the HourCar fleet.
James: [00:46:54] It is. Yeah, it is. We are we are adding more electric vehicles because the majority of HourCar trips are still within the Twin Cities area. Yeah, that’s car sharing normally. Trip like typically doesn’t go that far. With our adventure, what we call the adventure plus plan. You can get 900 miles in the course of three days. So yeah, you could grab like one of like Hyundai hybrids and go to Chicago and back. Like it’s a real thing to the point where all of the HourCar vehicles are now tagged with the Illinois toll pass. So…
Ian: [00:47:27] Huh. Huh.
James: [00:47:27] If you are going that far, just drive through the toll and we’ll get an invoice at the end of the month thing, send you the $5 bill or whatever it is.
Ian: [00:47:36] What a wild usage case for for HourCar.
James: [00:47:40] It happens enough that we had to that we had to activate that. But it’s it’s not the majority of trips by any means.
Ian: [00:47:47] Right. Right.
James: [00:47:48] So.
Ian: [00:47:55] You do have a very distinct colored house and garage.
Madi: [00:48:01] You’re going to a garage full of bikes and chickens. Oh, my God. This is what we call going full Madi.
Ian: [00:48:16] Got a garage full of chickens and a heart full of bikes. Something. There’s something there. We can develop it a little bit.
Madi: [00:48:25] Yeah.
Ian: [00:48:38] Where exactly are we going with these?
Madi: [00:48:40] Anywhere. Anywhere that you…
Ian: [00:48:40] [whistling]
Ian: [00:49:06] Oh, my God. Here I am, whistling to myself, and all of the chickens are standing, staring at me. [to chicken] Hi. Your chickens all know my name.
Madi: [00:49:21] Do they?
Ian: [00:49:21] Yeah, they’re all saying, “Buck, Buck, Buck.”
Madi: [00:49:23] [laughter]
Madi: [00:49:25] So if you want to get your bike in?
Ian: [00:49:27] Yeah. I mean, I feel like we owe it to the listeners. So this particular bike is going to present more of a challenge than most bikes, I think, because I’ve got the [Specialized] Pizza Rack on the front, which takes up it takes up space and it also it takes up space in a very awkward manner. There we go. There we go. I think that’ll. Is that is that far enough into close?
[00:49:55] Looks to me.
Ian: [00:49:55] There we go. Yes.
Madi: [00:50:00] All right.
Ian: [00:50:03] We successfully got the bike inside. Yeah. Okay, so here’s the Evie chargers that are next to the Super Target parking lot. We’re on Syndicate [St.], but they’re not in the parking lot. We’re parking on the street. Which does make sense since these are like city-owned charging stations.
Madi: [00:50:27] And you see the sign? No parking except Evie.
Ian: [00:50:31] Nice. Oh, that’s nice. Oh, we got our energy usage. 69 miles. Nice.
Madi: [00:50:43] Where’s that little guide I gave you earlier?
Ian: [00:50:45] It is right here in the door.
Madi: [00:50:49] Locate the green Evie card in the glove box.
Ian: [00:50:51] Glove box. Here we go. Oh, gosh.
Madi: [00:50:55] Push in on the charge door to expose the charge part. Tap the green card on the reader. Plug in the charging cable. A light above the dashboard will blink green when successful and then return the card to the glove box. So that seems pretty straightforward.
Ian: [00:51:11] Mm hmm. Now, we got to make sure that we get, like, my bike and everything out of this thing before we put the green the green card back in the glove box, because apparently that will end our trip.
Madi: [00:51:21] Okay. All right, let’s get your bike out.
Ian: [00:51:24] Yeah.
Madi: [00:51:28] Bike out with the mic out.
Ian: [00:51:35] It does seem very strange that they put the charging port on the driver’s side.
Madi: [00:51:42] Yeah.
Ian: [00:51:42] Okay, so. So we got the green card. We need to tap that to the reader here. Right plug. We may plug in while waiting.
Madi: [00:52:09] So funny how it just sits over the car like this… silly, silly thing.
Ian: [00:52:15] Just you just drape this big, thick cord. Start charging.
Madi: [00:52:23] Okay.
Ian: [00:52:25] Cool.
James: [00:52:33] We are working on a feature with Evie car share where if you end your trip and Evie spot charger and leave the vehicle charging, you’ll get a drive credit back.
Ian: [00:52:44] Right.
James: [00:52:44] So…
Ian: [00:52:46] Oh, does that feature not exist yet?
James: [00:52:48] Uh…
Ian: [00:52:49] Because Madi was assuming that she was going to get a credit when we left it charging.
James: [00:52:54] She should.
Ian: [00:52:55] Okay.
James: [00:52:55] So we secretly launched that in the back of our system as a like a surprising delight.
Ian: [00:53:02] Okay.
James: [00:53:02] So we had done testing on it. The testing on that was looking very promising. So we haven’t yet officially announced that it’s a real thing because we’re waiting for like the one weird glitch.
Ian: [00:53:15] Sure.
James: [00:53:16] So like, we’ve, we’ve gone through a lot of hills and valleys and launching the service. And so, you know, we would test it five times and it would work. And then the next day you wake up and it’s not working…
Ian: [00:53:26] Yeah yeah yeah.
James: [00:53:26] …we’re like “What is going on?” So this feature, we haven’t officially announced it yet, but it goes out there.
Ian: [00:53:32] Sure.
James: [00:53:33] People should be getting that credit. Where we’re really just waiting for more of the spot charging stations to open up to really make it a bigger incentive. Right now, there’s a handful of stations out there we’re not even yet at half-filled out network. So it’s a it’s a function that that will be officially published probably in July.
Madi: [00:54:01] I downloaded the the invoice and it’s.
Ian: [00:54:04] June 10th.
Madi: [00:54:05] Oh my gosh.
Ian: [00:54:06] That’s today.
Madi: [00:54:06] That was just 13 bucks.
Ian: [00:54:08] Nice. 30 miles.
Madi: [00:54:11] But they so they charged me $12.89 for a two hour, 14 minute trip, 30 miles. And that’s pretty economical to do once a quarter.
Ian: [00:54:22] That’s good. That’s good.
Madi: [00:54:24] All right.
Ian: [00:54:24] Madison May…
Madi: [00:54:26] [hooting]
James: [00:54:26] Good Evie trip.
Madi: [00:54:26] Yeah! Good Evie trip!
Ian: [00:54:30] Any any last thoughts on the whole ordeal before I stop recording?
Madi: [00:54:35] You know, it was it was pretty solid. There’s a little bit of funny new stuff, but it’s pretty straightforward, very convenient. You can fit a lot of pounds of chicken food in an Evie. It’s the that’s the main lesson today. All right. Go, team!
Ian: [00:54:52] Woo!
This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivative license. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it, and you are not profiting from it.
The music in this episode is by Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet.
This episode was hosted and edited by me, Ian R Buck, with transcript by the indomitable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest booker, and technical assistance is provided by the super professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work they do, please consider donating at streets.mn/donate. We really appreciate it!
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