Should electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles qualify as an alternative method of transportation?
One of the most common ways in which government agencies and transportation management authorities try to get people thinking about and using smarter forms of transportation is to sponsor “alternative commuting” challenges. When planning such initiatives, the question of what exactly qualifies as an “alternative” method of transportation frequently arises. One of the most spirited debates revolves around electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Electric vehicles (EVs) and their plug-in hybrid counterparts are fast becoming very popular with people that want to commute smarter and reduce the environmental impact of their transportation choices. But do they truly qualify as “alternative methods of transportation?”
There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether or not to count them on a list of approved transportation options when creating commuter challenge programs. Here are some EV features that suggest they make valid inclusions:
- EVs do not create any tailpipe emissions and as such, their CO2 profiles are negligible
- Gasoline-electric hybrids create far fewer emissions than gasoline-only vehicles while enjoying far superior fuel efficiency rates
- Many municipalities extend high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access to EVs and gasoline-electric hybrids as a way of rewarding motorists who make more environmentally friendly transportation choices
Meanwhile, here are some characteristics that might convince some program designers to leave them off the list of approved alternatives:
- Though they are highly energy efficient, single-occupancy EVs and plug-in hybrids still take up just as much road and parking space as other automobiles
- EVs and plug-in hybrids aren’t as immediately accessible to commuters who want to participate in challenges, given that they require a major up-front investment that many people simply aren’t able to make
- Charging facilities remain relatively rare, which can create logistical challenges for commuters if your workplace facilities can’t accommodate EV recharging needs
Take all these factors into consideration when configuring your program, and remember: the primary objective of a commuter program is more about making a positive impact than about who uses what alternative mode.
For governments and TMAs, the end goal is to get people to think critically about their transportation choices.
While the debate about whether to count EVs and plug-in hybrids continues, it’s important for program developers to remember that alternatives like walking, biking, carpooling, and ridesharing are likely to be much more popular and accessible to participants. The goal of such initiatives is to encourage people to think differently about their transportation choices, and that objective should always remain front and center.
If solo EV and plug-in hybrid drivers are asking to be included in a city-wide or regional alternative commuting challenge that promotes sustainable travel options, remember to consider all the factors in play when making such a decision and be ready to educate your users about your reasoning. You can explain the reasons behind your choices and policies in official press released and promotional materials distributed to participants in advance of the challenge’s official launch. It’s also a good idea to invite participants to offer comments and feedback so those taking part in the challenge feel like their voices are being heard.
Products like the RideAmigos TDM software platform power the technical management of alternative commuting challenges and initiatives. Offering a complete suite of trip planning, data management, analytics, incentivization, and challenge tracking features, RideAmigos has become an essential part of the TDM strategies of municipalities and governments across the United States and around the world.
RideAmigos is a leading smart mobility company based in Santa Monica, California. To learn more about our industry-leading platform or our full suite of commuter management services, please contact us or sign up to view our free, comprehensive video demonstration.