Electric vehicle-sharing program to roll out next month

·3 min read

Charlotte County residents will soon be able to access electric vehicles in their region through a community program.

Drivers can expect the new EV car-sharing program to be publicly accessible by mid-September, following a review of the program's pilot phase, according to Rose Beltran Umlas, project manager for Project: Village's car-sharing program.

Project: Village is a community initiative started by Eastern Charlotte Waterways, an environmental non-profit based in Blacks Harbour.

During the pilot phase, community organizations, such as Charlotte Dial-A-Ride, the Multicultural Association of Charlotte County, the Southwest New Brunswick Regional Service Commission and Vibrant Communities Charlotte County, have been using the car-sharing program, according to Beltran Umlas.

"The reason why we chose them, because No. 1, they have a perspective of what the community really needs," she said.

The pilot phase of the program wraps up Monday, allowing for a period of "closing interviews and getting customer feedback and basically rating the service."

Introduced in October 2021, the car-sharing program has four Hyundai Kona electric SUVs. A fee structure has been created, and there's a smartphone app to access the service.

Beltran Umlas said the pilot phase was designed as an "educational" stage to give the community an understanding of how electric vehicles work because they aren't something commonly used in the area. Putting them into community use was also designed to help the organization learn about the areas in which the program requires improvements, she said.

Once the data is collected from the pilot phase, Beltran Umlas said the next step will be to analyze and assess the feedback, following which there will be changes made in the operations before the program becomes public in mid-September.

Julie Dean, executive director of Charlotte Dial-A-Ride, said the organization has been using an EV for about a month through the program. It's being used to provide drives for medical reasons, like to hospitals for medical appointments and for blood work, and for grocery and prescription deliveries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's working out great," she said.

Since all their drivers are volunteers, she said this program gives many a chance to use the EV if they have a licence and no access to a vehicle, or if they have a truck and require a smaller vehicle, to be able to volunteer with the organization.

Once the organizations sit together, Dean said they would be sharing their feedback in order to keep this service going.

"It was a great idea to partner with them," she said. "We're just kind of working out how we can continue."

The program's car-sharing system - SAUVéR - acts "like an Uber," Beltran Umlas said, adding that it calculates time, distance and an estimated price of what a person might be paying for the drive, excluding any taxes or credit card fees.

Under the pilot phase, she said community organizations were only given access to two vehicles, but once the service is made public, they will slowly expand it to four.

"We want to take it slowly, you know, but surely," she said, mentioning that the first two EVs will be in the towns of Saint Andrews and St. Stephen.

Once the final design of the program is ready, Project: Village will be updating the details on its website and advertising the program.

- With files from Marlo Glass

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal