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Sacramento, Calif., to Serve as 'Green City' with Massive Electric Vehicle Carsharing Program

Volkswagen has chosen to locate its EV carsharing network in Sacramento despite Los Angeles' attempt to lure the company south.

Last week, Volkswagen (VW) cemented its interest in establishing an electric vehicle (EV) carsharing network in California's capital city of Sacramento. The auto manufacturer, as a part of the $14.7 billion settlement caused by the 2015 diesel emissions scandal, will devote $44 million to build out its first “Green City,” or network of electric vehicle charging stations and EV carsharing services.

The hope is that this carsharing network will expose a lower-income demographic to the benefits of driving zero-emission vehicles, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Sacramento was tentatively chosen in March of this year as the first of four potential Green Cities. Los Angeles community leaders attempted to lure the project down south, arguing that the higher population and global recognition from buildout in their city would make for a better first use case.

But with L.A. celebrities and an international reputation comes crippling traffic and hundreds of miles of sprawl. Due to this — and some of the worst congestion in the country — VW decided to stick with Sacramento. Not only is the traffic more manageable, the company said, but the city is also less spread out and, due to current electric vehicle capabilities, a fleet can’t travel more than 100 to 200 miles without recharging.

In April, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg mentioned the possible partnership as evidence that the city is lifting its national reputation as a location for technology and transportation innovation. The VW announcement ties in with the work done to prepare the California capital for the onset of autonomous vehicles.

Referring to Sacramento as the "Goldilocks" of cities, Steinberg told Government Technology earlier this year that “it’s not too big, it’s not too small…it’s the perfect petri dish to not only test this new technology, but show how it can be brought to scale.”

Final approval for the project rests on the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who, along with former Attorney General Kamala Harris, uncovered the scandal and negotiated the settlement. CARB members told VW to “retool" an early plan, stating that the network would not do enough to serve low-income residents.

The city has indicated its interest in the EV carsharing network, offering free shuttles to individuals without homes, and recently launched an EV carsharing program for public-housing residents.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.