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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Need a drive? Gonzaga to host electric cars for rent

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown joins other officials to cut a ribbon Tuesday at Gonzaga University’s Sustainability Office, 521 E. Sharp Ave. The event launched the ZEV Co-op program that makes electric cars available to rent.  (Thomas Clouse/The Spokesman-Review )

A new program will give Spokane drivers a way to rent an electric car on demand.

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown joined officials from Gonzaga University, Avista Corp. and Urbanova at a ribbon -cutting that featured the first Chevy Bolt that will be available to rent for students and residents.

The cars are provided by Seattle-based ZEV co-op, which is short for Zero Emission Vehicle Cooperative. ZEV Co-op, through state grants, has set up several other sites in Washington such as the one at Gonzaga.

“Our transit organizations are the backbone of it, and they have our deepest respect,” said Greg Dronkert, program manager for the cooperative. “It’s just, they can’t cover all of the need. I think our public is best served for those services to be provided through a co-op model as opposed to purely for-profit model.”

While much more complicated, it’s sort of like Lime scooter rentals, but for drivers.

“We are excited about this,” Brown said. “It really fits with the city’s sustainable action plan and just gives more options for people in Spokane. More and more, especially young people, are choosing not to own a vehicle. And this fills a gap for them.”

The program will initially start with one car, located at Gonzaga’s Sustainability Office, at 521 E. Sharp Ave. The fleet will eventually include a second Bolt and later an electric van that meets Americans with Disabilities Act specifications, Dronkert said.

To rent the electric vehicles, users must be between ages 21 and 79 and download the ZEV Co-op App. Prior to the rental, drivers must be cleared through a motor-vehicles records check for insurance purposes.

The rental rates depend on whether they are basic subscribers, or drivers who simply download the app, and those who are group members, such as Gonzaga students or Avista employees, who get reduced hourly and daily rates.

Even lower rates are charged to those who qualify as low-income, at $5 per hour, and per-day rates, Dronkert said.

“The concept is the subscription rate, which is closer to market rate, subsidizes the low-income rate and members essentially are paying par,” Dronkert said. “That is the general concept.”

In the state, ZEV Co-op has two vehicles in Seattle, two in Port Townsend, two in Tacoma, one on Bainbridge Island, and a partner-provided vehicle in Tukwila.

“We’re considered a nonprofit, but from a mindset point of view, we didn’t want to be a charity,” Dronkert said. “The co-op is a beautiful model because it has the mind and the incentive of a business, but it’s got the heart of a nonprofit.”

The program in Spokane and elsewhere is tapping into grants issued by the Washington state Department of Transportation for zero-emission access programs. Part of the co-op’s selling point is that it provides vehicles in rural and low-income areas that traditional for-profit organizations might ignore, Dronkert said.

“Our vision is to move onto bicycles, community shuttles and other modes of transportation through a co-op model,” he said.