There has been a growth in interest of car clubs in rural areas around Europe, as the price of motoring continues to increase due to the ongoing price hikes on the markets due to pandemic and the ongoing Ukraine war. With the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) this prospect looks even more enticing for those who don’t use their cars often and could save money and help the environment by skipping on car ownership.

As part of its effort to alleviate the climate crisis, the UK government announced in 2020 that sales of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2030, and electric cars will play a crucial part of this plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However rural villages and towns may be left behind in the transition to electric transport because of the costly charging infrastructure it requires.

A new initiative out of Lancashire in the UK is conducting surveys on how best to tackle the growing rural-urban inequality in a hope that research will support a baseline of evidence to access funding to develop more local car clubs, reducing rural isolation and ensuring the electric car transition is open to everyone.

But is the rural car club concept a viable alternative to public transport and private car ownership? We need to look further afield to understand the dynamics of rural living as part of the car sharing concept. The US, as per usual is often cited as a good place where many projects are tested ahead of global rollouts.

US examples

Forth Mobility, a US not-for-profit, has rolled out several EV car-sharing programmes in rural parts of the US. GoForth, has rolled out projects in Tennessee and elsewhere including ride sharing for pensioners in St. Louis. Meanwhile the CRuSE (Clean Rural Shared Electric Mobility) Project, launched in Hood River, Oregon, a US state known for its damp climate much like the UK.

“The Hood River region took an affirmative leadership role in Climate Change action when it adopted the Hood River Energy Plan in 2017,” said Hood River Mayor, Kate McBride. “Hosting a pilot program to test shared electric vehicle use in rural communities is one more example of Hood River taking this leadership role seriously. The City is excited to partner with the other local agencies providing charging locations for this project and hope it proves a successful model for the rest of the country to emulate.”

As part of that project, two cars were placed at Hood River property and used by city employees for business-related travel, meanwhile a third car was parked at the waterfront area to provide access for tourists visiting local sites. Meanwhile a specific focus was on the so-called “low income” areas where two other vehicles were situated for people in those residential blocks.

“The CRuSE project will increase access to clean mobility options in Hood River while introducing electric vehicle carsharing to the rural landscape,” said Forth’s Kelly Yearick. “We’ve designed the program to reduce barriers to participation that might exist but will constantly seek feedback from the community to refine and improve the program,” the project lead said.

Infrastructure was provided with a local electrical company, while maintenance was carried out by other companies including cleaning. This model of public-private partnership is a great example of how people and projects designed for rural areas can best use the vehicles on offer to them. The targeting of different uses of the EV vehicles including workers and residential would show best practice results in rural areas.

To fill out the survey on the development of the EV car sharing survey, see link below.

The online survey, which is currently live, should take less than five minute to complete and can be found at: