As a part of the EV Shared Mobility project, Forth will use their expertise in raising awareness to advance electric, smart, and shared mobility services and to encourage EV adoption among ride-hail drivers working for transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. In addition to engaging with drivers directly through different outreach events and online campaigns, Forth is partnering with the electric utility Portland General Electric (PGE) to expand access to DC fast charging for TNC drivers. Forth’s project revolves around three core goals of increasing adoption of EV vehicles by TNC drivers, gathering and sharing driver charging and vehicle data, and demonstrating the viability of “Uber Electric” in Portland. To accomplish these goals, Forth developed a project plan with four separate elements: deployment of EVs via collaboration with TNCs and local utility Portland General Electric, outreach and marketing campaign developed with their partner Brink Communications, creation of an Equity Financing Pilot to address lack of purchasing options for individuals with low income or poor credit, and direct engagement to advance shared mobility in marginalized communities. While each of these elements would have their own unique focus, all would work towards the project goals. The graphic below highlights the core components of Forth’s program, strategy, and the partners that are associated with different elements.

Project Successes

Forth has made considerable progress towards the core project goals. Some of these successes include:

  • New partnership established with Lyft
  • Primary components of outreach campaign completed with others on schedule
  • Data from Greenlots and PGE on TNC charging use secured while leading Electric Avenue marketing
  • Soft launch of the Equity Financing Pilot and Credit union and dealership partners secured

Challenges and Project Restructuring

Forth has also had to grapple with several challenges that have led to program restructuring. Some of these challenges include:

  • Quiet periods for both Uber and Lyft due to their initial public offerings in 2019 and operational restructuring
  • Limited data on current number of EV TNC drivers and education gaps for TNC drivers
  • Ongoing difficulties separating charging use of TNC drivers from the public
  • Delay of the Equity Financing Pilot due to delay of the “Charge Ahead” Rebate program, a $2,500 rebate on new or used EVs for low to moderate income individuals, availability at point of purchase

Current Status as of Q2 of 2019

Based on these challenges and successes, Forth is moving ahead with the final phase of the awareness campaign and has begun collecting metrics on engagement from the primary outreach efforts. Data collected from the campaign so far will influence the remaining outreach efforts and has informed the development and launch of the Driver Goals Campaign, an initiative that engages TNC drivers directly and highlights their unique stories and experience.

Forth continues to work directly with PGE to both market the Electric Avenue stations and gather data from the utility on TNC driver charging. This is facilitated by a partnership between PGE and Lyft that allows drivers unlimited charging during off-peak hours through a membership program which Lyft pays for. Forth will host events through the fall of 2019 to continue collecting feedback from drivers to assess the impact of outreach efforts as well as the Electric Avenue project on EV uptake by TNC drivers.

The other core focus of Forth for the remainder of 2019 is to bring in the first borrowers for the Equity Financing Pilot. Forth is working with financial partners to launch the pilot to adapt to ongoing delays with the statewide Charge Ahead rebate.

Project Overview

As the only non-governmental city-lead in the EV Shared Mobility project, Forth, a non-profit focused on advancing electric, smart, and shared mobility, plays a unique role within the project. Forth is an expert in EV awareness and focuses on education in all aspects of their work. For this project, Forth will test whether providing education, marketing, and training to transportation network company (TNC) staff, ride-hail drivers, rideshare passengers, and a wider consumer audience can increase adoption of electric vehicles within the ridesharing space.

State of the EV and Shared Mobility Space

Oregon policymakers are seeking to increase EV adoption throughout the state and Forth’s work benefits from supportive local and state policies. In particular, the regional Climate Action Plan sets goals for a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2040 from 1990 baseline levels. The plan includes a goal to increase the average fuel economy of all passenger vehicles to 40 miles per gallon by 2030, a figure which EVs easily surpass on a gasoline-equivalent basis. At the state level, Oregon is working to implement the Charge Ahead Rebate, which will provide low-income to moderate-income drivers a $2,500 cash rebate on top of the $2,500 standard rebate currently available to all drivers as a part of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. The standard rebate will be available through 2023 and the period of availability for the Charge Ahead Rebate has not been finalized. This program also applies to used vehicles and leased vehicles, increasing access to these programs for the segment of ride-hail drivers who are not in the market for a new EV.

Forth is leveraging these policies as well as used EV auto dealers in the Portland area to expand ride-hail electrification. Estimates from Uber indicate there were only 42 ride-hail EVs in the Portland area in at the end of 2018, a figure which represented less than 5 percent of Uber’s active user base. Increased electrification of these high-mileage vehicles can reduce local emissions and accelerate progress toward goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan.

Forth has also had to grapple with several challenges that have led to program restructuring. Some of these challenges include:

  • Quiet periods for both Uber and Lyft due to their initial public offerings in 2019 and operational restructuring
  • Limited data on current number of EV TNC drivers and education gaps for TNC drivers
  • Ongoing difficulties separating charging use of TNC drivers from the public
  • Delay of the Equity Financing Pilot due to delay of the “Charge Ahead” Rebate program, a $2,500 rebate on new or used EVs for low to moderate income individuals, availability at point of purchase

Project Structure and Core Goals

Forth’s project goals are broken up in to two sections, initial and current goals and scope. This distinction helps to emphasize the dynamic nature of the project and adaptations undertaken by the organization in order to advance transportation electrification and raise EV awareness among TNC drivers in Portland.

Initial Goals and Scope

In the initial project proposal, Forth, then called Drive Oregon, proposed goals of recruiting 500 TNC driver partners, collecting and sharing driver data for the U.S. Department of Energy, and demonstrating the viability of “Uber Electric”, a pilot program later called the EV Champions Initiative focused on EV adoption created by Forth and Uber and initiated in Portland in April 2017. The Portland iteration of the program was completed in June 2018 and although it was not continued, Uber was able to build on lessons learned and expand the program to seven other cities in the United States and Canada. Lessons learned have already been adapted and implemented by Lyft in their electrification programs in the Portland area. To accomplish these project goals, Forth crafted a driver-first approach that would require active involvement of TNCs and the electric utility, Portland General Electric (PGE). This approach would involve four separate elements: deployment of EVs via collaboration with TNCs and PGE, outreach and marketing, creation of an Equity Financing Pilot, and direct engagement to advance shared mobility in marginalized communities. While each of these elements would have their own unique focus, all would work towards the project goals.

For the deployment of EVs, Forth’s primary role would be to work alongside Uber on driver and rider education efforts. This work would include the scoping and implementation of an “Uber Electric” program, development of literature for Uber drivers, driver training sessions, and driver education to ensure that drivers understand how EVs work, how to select the best vehicle for their needs and budget, and how to engage with riders who are curious about the vehicles. Another key part of vehicle deployment would be Forth’s partnership with PGE. Forth would work with PGE to ensure that TNC drivers are a target group for infrastructure investment and coordinate with Uber and PGE to cover the monthly $25 fee for unlimited charging at the “Electric Avenue” bank of fast charging stations in downtown Portland for the first 250 members of the EV Champions Initiative. The success of these efforts would inform other major Uber markets nationwide.

Forth’s outreach and marketing efforts would be focused around a three-phase awareness campaign:

All three phases of the campaign would inform and feedback on one another to maintain a dynamic learning process that Forth can share with other EV Shared Mobility stakeholders, especially the City of Seattle. Education and outreach would constitute the core of Forth’s programmatic work and would build on past efforts to increase EV awareness in the region.

The final two elements of Forth’s project, the Equity Financing Pilot and Support Shared Mobility for Marginalized Communities, would target similar audiences as the education and outreach campaign. The Equity Financing Pilot would address the lack of a purchasing option from TNC platforms and include development of a list of creative financing options for individuals looking to build credit. Participants in the financing pilot would be provided with education and coaching on how to successfully transition to driving an EV, lower financing rates than would otherwise be available, financial counseling and assistance with credit repair, and increased access to EV ownership. Support Shared Mobility for Marginalized Communities would be focused on increasing access to shared mobility services for marginalized communities. Forth would work with members of these communities to address “transportation deserts” where limited public transit and bike share access exist.

Forth outlined their goals in this way due to their unique role as the only non-governmental city-lead in this project. As an outreach-focused organization, they could leverage their existing direct lines of communication to communities and drivers. This would allow them to focus on developing nuanced resources and plans to engage these communities in a way that puts drivers first and utilizes the organization’s expertise on raising awareness.

Current Goals and Scope

Nearly two years into the project, Forth has gained insights around how difficult it is to collect data from the TNCs and the City of Portland. There is more of an understanding around the baseline numbers and discoveries around the barriers to EV adoption. These challenges are detailed further in the “Challenges and Project Restructuring” section below. Forth has redefined its first goal to include relative number targets, as they will be easier to measure and confirm by TNCs. The other goals of the project remain largely the same:

  • Increase EV TNC drivers by 30 percent by the end of 2020
  • Evaluate the impact of PGE charging deployment on TNC driver charging behavior
  • Enhance existing relationships with TNCs to amplify outreach efforts and increase EV awareness

While Uber has shifted focus from the EV Champions Initiative, which was piloted in Portland in 2018, Forth has worked towards increasing EV drivers in TNC services via their partnership with PGE. The Portland component of Uber’s EV Champions Initiative has been completed and Forth now plans to draw on lessons learned through that process to continue engagement with TNCs and to inform other programs. Forth aims to work directly with Lyft to broker partnerships between the TNC and PGE to encourage drivers to take advantage of unlimited off-peak charging through a membership-based program which Lyft pays for. This includes active involvement in the siting and implementation of fast charging “Electric Avenue” corridors that will be deployed by PGE and will be accessible to the public and could benefit ride-hail drivers. One of the first in the country, this charging membership program builds upon a pilot that Lyft launched in April of 2019 called “Green Mode” that enables customers to hail a ride in a hybrid or electric vehicle on the Lyft app. Forth is also leading the awareness and education efforts connecting drivers to these resources. Outreach and marketing efforts are continuing as originally scoped. Phase 1 and 2 of the awareness campaign as defined in Initial Goals and Scope are complete and Phase 3 is set to begin in October 2019. Work on launching the Equity Financing Pilot to support shared mobility for marginalized communities is ongoing.

Partnership Building and Contracting

Strong partnerships are at the foundation of Forth’s work, especially for education and outreach activities. Forth has been engaged with TNCs directly throughout the course of the project and is building on earlier efforts with Uber to expand EV awareness in the Portland area. The organization targets ride-hail drivers directly and relies on partnerships with TNCs. Forth partnered with Brink Communications to design and amplify outreach efforts centered around the message that EVs can save drivers money and lead to increased revenue. Forth has also been able to engage Lyft as a collaborator to help spread the word and expand their reach within the TNC driver community.

Forth’s experience in the education and outreach side of transportation electrification has made for a natural partnership with PGE, who have robust transportation electrification goals themselves. Work with the electric utility extends far beyond Forth’s direct contributions to the EV Shared Mobility project and has helped to ensure that TNC electrification is a priority under utility programs as well.

Additionally, Forth has worked with the Port of Portland, which manages the airport, around the acceleration of fast-charging infrastructure. Forth has hosted pop-up outreach events at the TNC airport waiting lot and gained access to high-traffic EV areas and engaged rideshare drivers at the International Portland Auto Show through a collaboration with the Portland Metro New Car Dealers Association.

Later phases of Forth’s work including the Equity Financing Pilot require new partnerships with local and regional institutions. So far, Forth has been able to secure a formal financing partner with the local Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Point West Credit Union. Forth is also engaging used car dealerships like Platt Auto Group to ensure that the target groups have vehicles to choose from and are encouraged to participate as they prepare for the Charge Ahead Rebate Program to be implemented.

Data Collection and Analysis Strategy

While Forth’s data strategy is still evolving, the organization has independently sought direct input from TNC drivers to inform their outreach efforts. Forth is working with both Uber and Lyft in Portland to assess the current state of TNC EVs in the city and to monitor driving behavior to contribute to general transportation electrification initiatives around the city. The EV Shared Mobility project has an agreement with Uber, and received 2018 data, and Lyft will be providing data on EVs in Portland.

Forth is also working closely with PGE to collect and analyze charging station use data to determine the impacts of fast charging access on ride-hail driver behavior. Separating TNC driver charging from the general public use presents a data collection challenge for Forth. They have begun to address this by coordinating with PGE and establishing an agreement to share the TNC driver charging data the utility receives from Greenlots, the software provider for PGE’s Electric Avenue charging stations.

Forth engages directly with other local entities on an as-needed basis and plans to convene stakeholder groups to fill in any data gaps and address challenges. Some of these other challenges surround the difficulty of gathering contact information and engaging directly with drivers to ensure they have access to the information and resources they need to make the switch to electric. Forth has also faced difficulty gathering relevant data from the City of Portland and TNCs on the current number of EVs in the citywide TNC fleet. While these challenges are navigated, Forth will focus on data it can acquire, and engagement-based metrics to evaluate program success, including online video views, social media impressions and clicks, drivers engaged (in-person), additional points of contact for drivers engaged, number of test drives, and print materials distributed. These metrics will be used to track progress through the remainder of the awareness campaign.

Project Timeline

Forth has experienced early successes and challenges as their intervention in Portland for the EV Shared Mobility project has been implemented. This has revealed lessons that the organization can share to inform efforts in other cities. The figure below outlines the timeline for key project milestones so far.

Project Successes

The ability to forge new relationships with partners has been a core success of Forth’s work so far and played a key role in each aspect of the project. Through involvement with PGE, Forth has helped to influence charging infrastructure plans and ensure that these programs benefit a wide range of EV users and encourage EV adoption among ride-hail drivers and underrepresented groups. This partnership is facilitated by PGE’s designation of ride-hail drivers as key customers in their transportation electrification programs. The partnership with Uber led to the successful pilot of the EV Champions Initiative and will continue to play a role in ongoing outreach and data collection efforts. Securing commitments from the Port of Portland, Portland Airport, and Portland Metro New Auto Dealers Association have helped amplify and expand Forth’s outreach efforts.

In July 2019, Forth successfully completed Phase 1 of their outreach and awareness campaign. Between August 2018 and January 2019, Forth and partners at Brink Communications designed and produced a number of engagement resources including a short animated video, social media messaging, flyers, and a web page to be circulated throughout phase one. This partnership development has led to some measurable outcomes so far, including:

  • The generation of more than 240,000 impressions and 1,633 clicks.
  • The hosting of the first ever pop-up event in the TNC waiting lot at the Portland airport and engagement of more than 100 TNC drivers.

Early success will inform the next phases of outreach, allowing Forth to amplify success and reach a wider audience. Phase 2 of the outreach effort has also been completed and the Driver Goals campaign has been launched. Metrics for Phase 2 are still being collected; this is discussed further in the Current Status as of Q2 of 2019 section.

In September 2019, Forth successfully soft launched the Equity Financing Pilot after securing partnerships from the Point West Credit Union and Platt Auto Dealers. While work is still being done in preparation for the full launch scheduled for October 2019, the program currently in place will increase financial access with education and a lending option that can support the adoption of electric cars by ride-hail drivers, the majority of whom are low-income and minority populations.

Challenges and Project Restructuring

Following early involvement in the EV Shared Mobility project, Uber’s engagement has diminished as the project has progressed. Key reasons for this decline in engagement include:

  • The loss of key contacts at Uber that were focused on electrification efforts specific to the Portland area. In response, Forth has been building new regional contacts and works with the Sustainability and Policy team.
  • Uber’s electrification efforts have become regionally and nationally focused, rather than locally focused.

In response to these challenges, Forth has sought out new contacts to advance project goals. The organization has successfully established a new contact based in Seattle that is also connected with the City of Seattle, presenting an opportunity for shared progress on TNC electrification between the two cities.

As mentioned above, data gathering has presented significant challenges for Forth. TNCs have been slow to share information on the number of EVs in their fleets and data on electric rides or vehicle miles traveled is even more difficult to assess. These challenges and similar difficulties faced when coordinating with the Port of Portland have led Forth to focus on data gathering through their partnership with PGE and highlight metrics related to their awareness campaign to evaluate the success of the project in its current phase.

Forth has already begun to articulate early learnings from Phase 1 of their outreach efforts. When reflecting on their progress and challenges faced so far, the Forth team has found:

  • Diverting more resources to the marketing side of their campaign can expand the audience for existing promotional materials.
  • Cultivating direct relationships and meeting with TNC drivers in-person is critical to gathering stories and experiential accounts that can influence EV adoption.
  • Directing engagement through TNC channels limits Forth’s control and can be time consuming and resource intensive. Establishing multiple relationships is key to ensure promotional goals are met.
  • Despite high interest in EVs expressed by ride-hail drivers, many remain misinformed on features like purchase price and are unsure of where to access further information.
  • More regular stakeholder meetings with both internal partners to the EV Shared Mobility project and Portland city officials could improve the overall project management and help speed up restructuring efforts at the city level.

Forth continues to learn and adjust its strategy following the completion of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the outreach work. Challenges with TNC engagement and data sharing have led the organization to forge new relationships and contacts that will be valuable for the successful implementation of the next phases of work.

Current Status as of Q2 of 2019

Current project goals and metrics are still being finalized for Forth. Progress updates for the second quarter of 2019 include:

  • Phase 1 and 2 outreach completed.
  • Forth held second outreach event in TNC waiting lot at the airport.
  • Completion of the needs assessment survey and a one–pager for rideshare drivers with information about the benefits of going electric.
  • Lyft Green Mode launched in Portland in partnership with Forth. Membership agreement between Lyft and PGE finalized to offer free off-peak fast charging to TNC drivers.
  • Forth working with PGE on marketing for Electric Avenue stations to target TNC drivers.
  • Forth encouraged Port of Portland to install DCFC at the airport.
  • The partnership with Point West Credit Union was recently finalized. Eligibility requirements, and outreach materials for marginalized communities are in development to encourage participation in upcoming Equity Financing Pilot

The core priority in the current phase of work revolves around expanding engagement with resources included in their Rideshare Electrification Program, an online platform providing information and resources for TNC drivers. These span digital and print media marketing campaigns, pop-up events, focus groups and ride & drives to both raise awareness and develop long-term engagement with the rideshare driver community. Forth has gathered engagement data from the first phase of the campaign and will use it to inform future work, as described in Next Steps. Driver testimonials remain a valuable resource for Forth and the organization continues to explore how this information could eventually be used to inform the project data dashboards that will outline project progress.

Phase 2 of the awareness campaign concluded in late summer of 2019. This work included direct coordination with TNCs where Forth ran a “Call for Stories” with emails through Uber and Lyft’s platforms and their own website. This was supplemented with three new rideshare driver videos (60 seconds in length) featuring actual rideshare drivers sharing their “Driver Goals.” Forth also distributed the first rideshare newsletter announcing the upcoming financing pilot. The pilot launched in September 2019 and progress so far includes securing a financing partner, credit union, and dealership partners to expand the scope of this program.

Forth is also exploring ways to increase cooperation with TNCs and plans to leverage these partnerships to reduce data gaps and increase access to information. Forth continues to work with PGE to establish assumptions to determine TNC driver charging station usage as the Electric Avenue stations will be accessible to the public. Next steps for this effort include engaging with Greenlots, the charging service provider for the program, to improve information sharing and gather early charging use data.

Next Steps

Establishing new targets and solidifying goals will be a main focus for Forth moving forward. Key focus areas for the next phase of work include:

  • Execution of Phase 3 of the outreach campaign
  • Soft launch of the Equity Financing Pilot in the third quarter
  • Evaluate data from Greenlots and PGE on TNC driver charging use

The next steps for Forth’s project center around the roll-out of the Equity Financing Pilot through the remainder of 2019. Forth has a goal of getting 50 EV TNC drivers on the road through the end of the year under this program. Initial progress reports for this pilot program are expected at the end of December 2019 and the findings will be integrated into the project outline.

In addition to their efforts to increase access to financing, Forth is looking to expand their audience and will move into Phase 3 of their awareness campaign in partnership with Brink Communications and independent contractors. They will integrate lessons learned during Phase 1 and 2 to make sure that their marketing strategy is raising EV awareness among TNC drivers specifically. Phase 3 will also include the continuation of the social media campaign built in Phase 2. Forth will work alongside Uber and Lyft to get the word out to drivers about the financing pilot and work to recruit drivers for the program. Efforts to add Ride & Drive events with PGE and Lyft, produce video testimonials from drivers who have driven electric, and conduct further needs assessment will continue. Awareness efforts will expand to include direct engagement of community organizations, particularly to promote transportation equity efforts through the Equity Financing Pilot and separate efforts being conducted by PGE. Forth is also considering establishing a mentoring program featuring EV ambassadors at their events drawing on past work with TNCs like Uber.

Forth also continues to explore new partnership opportunities with TNC companies such as Lyft and other entities that have expressed interest in the EV Shared Mobility project. For example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has expressed interest in establishing a partnership with Forth to connect with TNC drivers directly as part of their efforts to gather data on EV driving patterns for ride-share drivers. This partnership could further expand Forth’s own efforts to gather data on electric vehicle use by ride-hail drivers. There is also a potential to work with charging service providers such as EVgo to gather information on the optimal mix of charging and vehicles to assess the region’s gaps and challenges.