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 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.
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, 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, and improving TNC driver access to credit. To accomplish these project goals, Forth crafted a driver-first approach that would require active involvement of TNCs and the electric utility, PGE. This approach would involve four separate elements: deployment of EVs via collaboration with TNCs and PGE, outreach and marketing, creation of a Fair 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. The Portland iteration of the “Uber Electric” 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. Findings from Uber’s program have already been adapted and implemented by Lyft in their electrification programs in the Portland area. 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 Fair Financing Pilot and Support Shared Mobility for Marginalized Communities, would target similar audiences as the education and outreach campaign. The Fair 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.
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 in the design process as of January 2020. Challenges following the soft launch of the Fair Financing Pilot are being addressed and Forth seeks to facilitate the approval of at least 10 loans by the end of 2020. They are also identifying community groups to engage to ensure underserved drivers benefit from these programs.
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 for Phases 1 and 2 to design and amplify outreach efforts centered around the message that EVs can save drivers money and lead to increased revenue. They will issue an RFP to identify a new communications partner for the Phase 3. 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 Fair 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. In addition, Forth is exploring a partnership with other regional financial institutions to expand the pool of resources available for the project. 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 at the point of purchase by late Summer of 2020.
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 pursuing an agreement to share the TNC driver charging data the utility receives from its 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.