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Opinion: An ode to Evie

How the Twin Cities electric carshare system is making electric vehicle access affordable, accessible and convenient.
A HOURCAR sign stands in one of Augsburg College Parking Lot. Students of University of Minnesota who live in the Southeast Como neighborhood will soon be having the car sharing service.
Image by Anthony Kwan
A HOURCAR sign stands in one of Augsburg College Parking Lot. Students of University of Minnesota who live in the Southeast Como neighborhood will soon be having the car sharing service.

A friend’s text in the WhatsApp group chat surprised me. I could, indeed, really use a ride to campus that day. It would save me the cost of an Uber, an hour-long bus trip or a bike ride in the cold. But I had no idea how my friend, who did not own a car, was going to pick me up. This was last year, in October — maybe he would come by broomstick?

When he pulled up in front of my house, it was in a sleek, white hatchback: an electric Chevy Bolt, patterned with teal accents and a logo. The name on the side of the car — Evie — sounded like it should be the name of your millennial cousin’s new baby, short for Evangeline or Genevieve.

“Swanky,” I said to my friend as I climbed into the car. The inside was clean, well-kept and sensible. There were no Tesla-esque touch screens or gadgets.

“It’s electric,” my friend bragged, as if it was his own car.

The Evie Carshare system is new to the Twin Cities. Its operating partner, HourCar, has been around since 2005, but the Evie fleet just hit the streets in 2022.

According to James Vierling, head of growth, marketing and communications for HourCar, it was a movement toward electric vehicles in the car industry that made the Evie Carshare possible, as well as its host project: the EV Spot Network.

“The concept of the entire network is to provide renewably powered access to electric vehicles, whether that be your ability to own one or your ability to drive one without having to own one,” Vierling said.

The EV Spot Network provides curbside charging stations across Minneapolis and St. Paul, with a certain number of spots available at each location for public use and a certain number of spots for Evie Carshare vehicles. The network was developed by the city of St. Paul in partnership with the city of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy and HourCar.

When complete, the EV Spot Network will offer more than 280 charging stations across the Twin Cities.

The birth of the Evie Carshare has been made possible by a popular boom in electric vehicle ownership. Nationally, electric vehicles accounted for 7% of new vehicle registrations in January 2023; in the Twin Cities, they accounted for 4.3%, up from just 1.4% last year.

“We knew electric vehicles were coming. We knew they were going to be more affordable,” Vierling said.

The arrival of electric vehicles on the market gave the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis a chance to address a critical public health concern.

“The worst air quality exists in the most dense and low-income communities in almost every major metropolitan area across the country,” Vierling said. “In Minnesota, the number one greenhouse gas contributor is the personal automobile, and where those emissions and that bad air quality ends up is in under-resourced neighborhoods.”

Across the partnership’s projects, use of the carshares reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 3,256 metric tons. The Evie electric carshare alone accounted for more than 2,000 metric tons.

By using the carshare services, members saved an estimated $11.5 million on transportation costs by shedding or deferring the purchase of their own personal car.

In August, my partner and I were in a minor car crash. We were unharmed, but our car was out of commission. Thankfully, I knew exactly what to do to keep us mobile around the Twin Cities.

On the user side, the partnership is simple: one membership allows you access to both the HourCar and Evie fleets via a single app. There’s a membership plan option for students and one for frequent drivers. The low-income membership plan, Access Plus, costs just $1 a month.

There’s also an option to pay by each ride, with no monthly fee, the way you might pay for a single Lime scooter ride.

I applied for a membership in just a few minutes, and by the end of the day, I received confirmation that my application had been accepted. I was ready to drive.

I live within walking distance of two different HourCar hubs, spots where cars in the fleet need to be borrowed from and returned. But when I was out and about, near campus or downtown, there were Evies in all the spaces in between. Like a Lime, Spin or Veo scooter, Evies follow a free-float model; they’re unattached to hubs.

When their battery is low, you can park at an EV Spot Network charging station.

In 2022, the body that administers the HourCar and Evie carshares served 5,496 members across their projects, an increase of 160% from the year before. They had 79,636 trips, a 300% increase from 2021.

The Evie Carshare plans to scale up to 170 vehicles or more in 2023. When the associated in-progress EV Spot Network is complete, it will offer over 280 on-street charging locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Even now that our household car has been repaired, I remain a carshare devotee. What if my partner took the car to work and I needed to get to Trader Joe’s, to campus or to a friend’s? I can take an Evie or an HourCar.

Even in its most challenging moments, the carshare system impressed. After driving my partner home from surgery, I mistakenly left my wallet in the backseat of the car. When I realized, I raced back to where I had left the car parked. As I watched, the next driver initiated a ride and drove off. I reported my lost wallet to the customer service line, but I was sure my wallet was gone forever.

The next day, I received an email. My wallet had been found and was waiting for me to pick it up in an HourCar building.

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