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An Evo member drives through a roundabout in Vancouver

Car-sharing services facing pressure to meet Vancouver’s climate goals

Companies say that transitioning to zero emissions will be difficult because of government roadblocks.

By Jenny Cunningham , in City Environment , on November 26, 2021

Vancouver’s car-share companies say it will be a struggle to meet the city’s new requirement to reach zero emissions by 2030, as Vancouver’s climate-emergency plan has mandated.

They say that, while they’re doing everything they can to get to zero emissions, they are being hobbled by a problem with limited charging stations and severe restrictions on subsidies they can get from government programs.

There are two major roadblocks,” said Evos senior manager of business operations, David Wharf. “One, the cost of the vehicles themselves is quite a bit more than the hybrid models.” But car-share services in British Columbia have access to far fewer government subsidies compared to individual car owners. 

Secondly, he said, there aren’t enough charging stations in the city to accommodate the company’s 1,700 cars. “How do we operationalize it?” he asked.

Evo currently uses fuel-efficient hybrids and has already been planning to convert to electric. Modo has begun introducing EVs, including two hydrogen fuel-cell cars, one plug-in hybrid and 10 battery vehicles in the past two years. Their 700 car fleet now has a total of 25 EVs and they say they are working hard to completely upgrade to zero emissions. But Modo will have to add EVs at a much higher rate than 13 per year in order to meet the city’s stated mandate.

In November 2020, the City of Vancouver approved the climate emergency action plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. The plan stipulates that car-share services will be required to fully transition to zero emissions by 2030. This gives carshares only 10 years to completely swap out their existing cars for electric vehicles. 

A Modo EV charges outside Vancouver city hall

Vancouver was named the “carsharing capital of North America” in 2018. Since then, however, the city has lost Car2Go and Zipcar due to lack of charging infrastructure and rising operational costs. Now, Evo and Modo are Vancouver’s two remaining car-sharing services.

Individual car owners in British Columbia are eligible for up to $8,000 in combined federal and provincial incentives to buy a personal EV. Before 2020, car-share services were eligible for 10 incentives per year.

But that number was reduced to a total cap of 50 per company as a way towards economic recovery following the pandemic, according to policy analyst Henry Lee of the B.C. government clean transportation branch. This means that Modo, which has 25,000 members that share 700 cars, only qualifies for incentives proportionate to two per cent of its members. 

“Incentives are designed to inequitably favour individual car owners,” said Patrick Nangle, CEO of Modo. “That is grossly inequitable and seems to be a surprising contradiction to the stated intentions to reduce emissions from transportation.” 

Because personal vehicles are used approximately five per cent of the time and commercial fleet cars operate closer to 50 to 60 per cent of the time, Wharf believes that prioritizing transitioning fleets as opposed to personal cars would have a greater impact on diminishing carbon emissions.

“They have definitely favoured the individual in that sense and I think they’ve missed the mark on that. It’s very imbalanced,” Wharf said. “People are switching over to EVs for personal vehicles quicker and quicker and pretty soon we will be the ones that are antiquated.”