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Community-Based EV Carshare: Expanding Access, Reducing Costs, and Increasing Sustainability

Corktown Carshare: increase access for residents, employees, and visitors while encouraging shared mobility options and public transit.

Photo of Michael Peters
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Our solution is to offer carshare in the Michigan Central Station Impact Area as part of an e-mobility hub that would also include bike and scooter share, ridehailing, and close proximity to public transit.  Sway Mobility would provide the carshare component through our turnkey carshare-as-a-service platform.  This includes the vehicle, insurance, operations, and hardware/software.

For the pilot, we propose two vehicles for one year at a location chosen in collaboration with the impact area’s residents and stakeholders.  These vehicles would seed a public carshare network that could be expanded over time.  Institutions or large employers, like Ford, could also subscribe to additional dedicated vehicles that would encourage employees to get to work on public or microtransit services knowing they have access to a vehicle once there.  

This solution can be implemented today, with Ford vehicles, and can leverage the FordPass network of EV chargers (or other new or existing chargers).  No expansion of city services is required, everything can be done within the current infrastructure of the neighborhood and within existing regulations and ordinances, and our solution can scale both up to an unlimited number of vehicles and down to as few as one vehicle.

We believe this solution is desirable to neighborhood residents, workers, and visitors and complements existing transit modes including public transit.  A pilot can be delivered quickly and cost-effectively and there is a clear pathway to economic sustainability.

The carshare program was originally developed in Cleveland with the input of community development corporations, non-profits, city governments, and real estate developers.

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

A community-based carshare program would benefit residents, workers, and visitors by expanding transportation options. It would allow residents to run errands, access more healthcare choices, have reliable transportation to a job interview, and enjoy the city’s cultural amenities while reducing household transportation expenses. It may allow a family to become car-light or car-free, increasing housing security, reducing stress, and improving opportunity. Everyone in the area would benefit from more choices across the shared mobility spectrum, allowing them to choose a car on a rainy day or a bike or scooter on a sunny one. It would encourage more workers to take public or microtransit services, reducing the need for a private vehicle, reducing parking demand and congestion in the area, and reducing vehicle miles traveled (and airborne pollutants like PM2.5). However, it would still allow those workers to get to meetings, run errands at lunch, or pick up a sick child at school.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Carshare generally reduces vehicle miles traveled, lowers household expenses devoted to transportation, and increases public transit ridership. Since we use electric vehicles, our program is often the first exposure users have to EVs and the reactions are overwhelmingly positive. For real estate developers, the attractions include reducing the cost of building parking (carshare replaces ~10 private vehicles), providing a unique amenity, and reinforcing the firm’s sustainable practices.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Sway Mobility is a startup based in Cleveland, OH, founded to increase access to mobility for all residents. Detroit and Cleveland have the 2nd and 3rd lowest rates of vehicle ownership in the Midwest after Chicago, with far less extensive public transportation networks. We believe every neighborhood should have equitable access to transportation options, so we built Sway Mobility to cost-effectively provide small-scale carshare networks.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

Sway Mobility provides carshare-as-a-service with everything required for successful operations included in a monthly subscription price. In Ohio the annual cost per vehicle is $15,000, although we expect insurance to be priced higher in Michigan. However, we expect that $50,000 would cover all costs for two vehicles for one year, including the lease of the electric vehicles, insurance, operations, technology, and community outreach and co-marketing.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

During the pilot phase, we would work with impact area stakeholders to determine the location of the carshare vehicles. Then we would collaborate on a pricing model and ideally work with philanthropic donors to craft a subsidized pricing structure to allow for the widest possible access to the program. We would also work with this group to create a brand identity for the program, emphasizing that it is a community-based program (accelerating trust, increasing utilization). We would then, as quickly as practical, deploy two electric vehicles and work with community organizations to develop outreach programs. The pilot is recommended for a one-year duration to test various utilization strategies and determine seasonality.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

In a neighborhood that has not previously had access to carshare, traditional metrics like utilization only tell part of the story. Designing a program collaboratively accelerates utilization, but maintaining realistic expectations, especially until the daytime population increases with additional workers and visitors, is important. Our basic metrics would include: a target utilization rate by the end of the pilot (15%?), the number of people who signup and use the service at least once, and the number of users who access the service more than 3(?) times per month. Through various outreach strategies, we would also look to capture both anecdotal stories of success and metrics around vehicle miles traveled reductions, GHG emissions avoided, and increased access to food, jobs, healthcare, and other forms of opportunity. In many ways this would be a proof of concept that would ideally lead to an expanded program, both for publicly-available cars and dedicated networks.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Sway’s carshare-as-a-service model is subscription-based and sustainability is dictated by a combination of user revenues, sponsorships, grants, and complementary private networks. Sustainability is also achieved through lower operating costs. Through the use of EVs, our operating costs are about one-third of gas-powered vehicles and maintenance costs are less than half of a typical vehicle.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Boratha Tan

Thanks for submitting Michael Peters ! I am part of the facilitation team for City:One. I'm sorry to say this, but this reminds me a bit of zipcar. How would you distinguish yourself? Also, how would you address senior citizens or other people who do not/cannot drive? What about people that need a ride but are too far to walk to the car hub?

Photo of Michael Peters

Thanks Boratha - and you're correct in that conceptually it is similar to Zipcar and retains the many merits of traditional carsharing. However, it's also different in several critical aspects: it is not membership-based (there's no monthly fee to simply have access to the program), there is a significant community-engagement aspect that no other major carshare operators offer, it can be operated by the community (once capacity is built) and is not controlled by a publicly-traded multinational that can pull out of the city at its option with little or no notice, it was designed and optimized for electric vehicles (Zipcar remains a legacy technology that is predominantly internal combustion car focused), and it is readily available to the community if it chooses - it is unlikely that Zipcar would service the impact area. It should also be viewed within the larger context of the shared mobility spectrum - everything from public transit to scooters - so it is not the answer to every mobility issue. This is why it is complementary but an important component of the spectrum that could and should be available to the residents, workers, and visitors of the impact area. Those unable or unwilling to drive have ridehailing, public transit, and microtransit options that may better meet their needs. The mobility hub concept facilitates a wider service area as users can choose to walk, take a shared scooter or bike, or utilize the same first mile/last mile solutions available for other modes such as public transit. Much like with non-drivers, this is not a solution that meets every need, as no mode can be, but access to a car, which remains the most common mode for most of the population, should be available to those who can not or chose not to own a private vehicle. Hope this helps clarify and happy to address any other questions.