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A Small but Crucial EV Program in the Central Valley Has Disappeared

Image: Screengrab from video by Craig Kohlruss. Cantua Creek resident Julia Mendoza speaks to the Fresno Bee.

The Fresno Bee has published a sad report about a state-funded program that brought several electric cars and charging infrastructure to a small Central Valley town where many residents had extremely limited access to transportation. The program, supported by several nonprofit organizations and state grants from the cap-and-trade program, was supposed to be a pilot that would expand as more funding was available. It formed the basis of a community ride-share program, in which local drivers were able to provide shared rides to residents for a fee.

It only lasted a few months. Cantua Creek residents say the cars were abruptly removed without notice during the pandemic, and now, several years later, there is no word on whether they will ever be returned. Meanwhile the charging infrastructure that had been installed as part of the program is not being maintained. The Bee calls the chargers "monuments to a bungled state program and the indignity endured by [the] community."

The Bee reports that the ride-share business operating the program, called Green Commuter, "absorbed the vehicles into its Los Angeles fleet per terms of the grant."

Meanwhile the people in Cantua Creek who were benefiting from the increased access to transportation - and benefiting the state by making trips in electric vehicles rather than their neighbors' gas-fueled vehicles which they once again must rely on - are left in the dust. The charging infrastructure deteriorates, unused, and the residents feel abandoned.

The Bee story raises more questions than it can answer - including why the vehicles were taken away, who is responsible for maintaining the charging infrastructure, and whether the program can be renewed. Even if the pilot hadn't been abruptly ended, there is no guarantee that it would have been extended, given current budget threats; but at least Cantua Creek residents' questions might have been met with more than silence.

Fresno County has developed several similar rural clean transportation programs, including a micro-transit pilot west of Fresno and the Green Raiteros in Huron, and that has involved increasing investments in EV charging stations throughout the county.

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