Echo Park charging station on Glendale Boulevard

BY BARRY LANK

Echo Park and East Hollywood will be part of a pilot program to test a low-cost, electric car-sharing service funded in part by the city.

Starting with a grand opening this Friday,  BlueLA, as the service is called, will rent electric cars to any licensed driver over age 18 for as little for as 15 cents a minute.  The two-seater cars with a large storage space are for short trips and errands around town. The batteries have a range of about 160 miles.

The cars come equipped with two horns – a normal car horn and a more subtle horn that makes a frog-like noise to alert pedestrians that a quiet-running electric vehicle is nearby.

Small groups of cars connected to charging stations will be parked on city streets. Much like Metro’s bike-share program, cars can be picked up at any station (reserving in advance is probably a good idea), and dropped off at any other BlueLA station.

The first wave of stations is being targeted at lower income areas, including the south end of Echo Park, Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, Chinatown, Westlake, Koreatown, Pico-Union and Downtown. BlueLA said it plans to have about 100 cars available at more than 40 stations by the end of the year.

“But with the size of the city, that’s nothing,” said Cristophe Arnaud, managing director of Blue Solutions.  But that number could double or triple, he added.

So how will BlueLA, which has an initial five-year contract with the city, ensure the vehicles won’t run out of power along the road?  When the vehicle has only 20% power remaining, drivers will be notified to head for the closest station and take another car.

Blue LA Parking Only

Blue LA will be able to trace cars at anytime and be notified if a car goes outside a certain perimeter.

Once cars are plugged in at the station, they cannot be unplugged unless the company allows, Arnaud said. If the charging stations are vandalized or broken, the company is automatically notified.

Registering for an account to use the cars also requires uploading a photo or scanned copy of your valid driver’s license and a separate photo of yourself. In addition, a Community Membership – the most low-cost arrangement – requires additional documents that prove you have a household income below $35,000.

In Indianapolis, a similar program  expanded to 280 cars over two years that provided more than 63,000 rides, according to the Indianapolis Star.  A significant number of those trips — 7.6% — were trips to or from the airport.  There’s no BlueLA station at LAX but Arnaud said the company plans to add one.

One complaint heard in Indianapolis was that parking spaces were taken away to accommodate the electric car stations. Arnaud said his company is working with local L.A. communities in picking sites.

Locations either in operation or under construction in or near the Eastside as of now include:


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