Electric car-sharing program launches in Chattanooga

Electric car-sharing program launches in Chattanooga

October 12th, 2016 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

TVA power utilization engineer Andrew Frye speaks at the celebration of Chattanooga's electric vehicle car share, "First Plug-In."

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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Learn more about Chattanooga’s electric car-sharing program at greencommuter.org/chattanooga or at www.facebook.com/greencommuterchattanooga

Initial list of car-sharing stops; more to come …

› CARTA: Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, two cars

› CARTA: Shuttle Park South, one car

› CARTA: Shuttle Park North, one car

› CARTA: Shuttle Park North Shore, two cars

› Chattanooga Theatre Centre at Coolidge Park: four cars

› United Methodist Neighborhood Centers Inc.: The Bethlehem Center, two vehicles

Initial list of car-sharing stops; more to come…

• CARTA: Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, two cars

• CARTA: Shuttle Park South, one car

• CARTA: Shuttle Park North, one car

• CARTA: Shuttle Park North Shore, two cars

• Chattanooga Theatre Center at Coolidge Park, four cars

• United Methodist Neighborhood Centers Inc.: The Bethlehem Center, two vehicles

Chattanooga, meet some of the new electric cars at your service: Iris, Pearl, Ross, Coolidge, Frazier, Smokey, River and Hamilton.

Those Tennessee-centric (Iris is the state flower; Pearl is the state gem) and Chattanooga-centric names were given to eight of the Nissan Leaf electric cars that become available tomorrow for car-sharing at a number of locations.

"Each car has a name tag. It says, 'Hello, my name is,'" said Green Commuter electric car-sharing program Manager Allyson Witt. She explained the names will help drivers remember which rental car is theirs and that it "gives some personality behind the vehicles."

Through the car-sharing program, drivers can rent a Leaf, which has a range of about 90 to 100 miles on a charge, for $9 an hour or $45 a day. Applicants need to go online to Green Commuter's website and prove they have a clean driving record and pay a $25 application fee and $50 annual membership fee (which for a limited time will be provided as a $50 driving credit.)

Drivers then will be able to use Green Commuter's app to find a nearby rental electric car, use a Smartphone to unlock it and start the engine.

No key is involved in the app-based system.

It's like the city's existing bike share program. Except, for now anyway, the cars have to be returned to where they were picked up, while the blue-and-yellow bikes can be dropped off at any bike station.

"For now, it is round trip, so you have to take [the car] back to where you got it," Witt said.

Only about a dozen cars are expected to be operational tomorrow at a limited number of stations. Eventually, 20 Leafs will be available for rental by such users as downtown dwellers who don't own cars and families that have downsized to one car.

CARTA Executive Director Lisa Maragnano said last month the typical motorist spends nearly $10,000 a year buying, insuring and operating a car, and the new car sharing program could help many people limit their transportation spending. Fewer vehicles would, in turn, free up downtown parking spaces and reduce urban pollution, program backers said.

This is the first-ever launch of a car-sharing program by Green Commuter, a Los Angeles-based startup business that was chosen by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, the city's bus service, which funded the program through a $3 million grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority. CARTA will equip some of the electric car charging stations with solar panels that will feed electricity into EPB's power grid.

"Electric vehicles and solar-assisted vehicle charging maximizes the benefits of clean energy by reducing emissions, encouraging solar power and expanding electric transportation in Chattanooga," TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said. "We hope that all of our efforts will increase the use of electricity as an alternative vehicle fuel source to lower transportation costs and improve our environment."

TVA is sponsoring the program partly to help entice more motorists to try driving electric vehicles, which could help the federal utility gain new business and could help level TVA's load by recharging car batteries at low-demand periods.

Chattanooga is the first mid-sized city in the United States to get an electric car-sharing program, Fiedler said, which puts the Scenic City in the ranks of larger cities such as Seattle and Indianapolis.

Green Commuter's kickoff event tomorrow includes free pizza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Edney Building at 11th and Market streets, and a contest on Green Commuter Chattanooga's Facebook page to name two of the 20 cars. Along with the Tennessee- and Chattanooga-centric names, the other car names are just typical ones, Witt said, including Marlene, Stephanie and Alex.

"We have two vehicles, as part of our launch, we're allowing the community to name," Witt said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.


Updated Oct. 12 at 9:55 p.m. with additional details.