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Greenville, Clemson among first in US to launch ride-sharing network

Molly Hulsey //March 15, 2022//

Greenville, Clemson among first in US to launch ride-sharing network

Molly Hulsey //March 15, 2022//

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InnovaEV's ZEV charging stations are powered by wind and solar power, as depicted in this 2015 rendering. (Rendering/Provided)Former County Councilman Fred Payne may have retired from Greenville County’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, but he hasn’t put the brakes on his advocacy for affordable transit solutions.

Shared rides are on the rise. Upstate Forever installed rental bike stations across downtown Greenville in 2013. Bird e-scooters flock along sidewalk corners on Anderson’s Main Street.

And now, as board chairman of nonprofit Carolinas Alliance 4 Innovation, Payne expects Greenville to be on the cusp of the Upstate’s latest micro-mobility development: a low-speed electric vehicle fleet deployed for hourly rental this summer.

Before COVID-19 hit the Upstate, Payne and his CA4I team received a mobility grant from the Federal Transit Administration for their Carolina Rides + program, an effort with Senior Solutions to connect employees, disabled or older adults with an agency or employer-sponsor ride-sharing network.

When plants closed their doors and public transit use waned in 2020, the initiative began to evolve into something new.

“So, we got the FTA grant, and need revised budget approval” Payne told GSA Business Report. “It’s still going to be spent for ‘mobility for all’” — the non- profit’s motto.

The alliance became a nexus between the Upstate and Innova EV, a Chicago-based micro mobility company that plans to put “The Dash” — an electric and solar-fueled vehicle available for short-term rent — on the streets of Miami, San Francisco and Greenville by the third quarter of 2022.

Clemson University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Idaho are the first four schools to pilot the system, according to the company.

San Diego and Coronado, Calif., Laramie, Wyo., Chicago and Charleston are next in line for The Dash, as well as eight other campuses in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Utah, Nevada and California.

The Dash resembles a Smart Car more than it does a golf cart, but it tops off at 35 miles per hour in some models, 25 mph in others.

Similar to the Byrd and Lime scooter model, the cars can be activated via a smartphone app and are connected to WiFi and 4G broadband. Sponsors can pay for a customizable vehicle advertising wrap, as well as digital ads on the app.

As the Innova EV’s cloud collects more data, it populates the app with popular stores and restaurants nearby and paves the way for the installation of autonomous software in the future. Video cameras and sensors are integrated into school security platforms on college campuses, the Dash’s first test track.

“The Innova UEV team is excited to introduce this innovative sustainability program to universities across the country as a way to reduce CO2 output, as well as decrease congestion,” Innova CEO and founder Roman Kuropas said in a 2015 statement during The Dash’s pilot period at several universities across the country. “Visionary schools that make this level of commitment to the environment are sure to add to their sustainability prestige as leaders in higher education.”

The company markets the vehicle as a “first mile and last mile supplement to mass transit” in urban environments.

According to Payne, the city of Greenville approved five DashEV parking and Zero Emission Vehicle charging sites for the company’s initial launch: the Poinsett, Richardson, Riverplace and Commons Garages downtown, as well as the West End Park and Ride station on 106 Augusta St.

The Spinx Co. also expressed interest in installing a DashEV parking and ZEV charging sites at the store on Washington Street and Laurens Road, he said.

“Innova EV is focusing heavy attention to installing ZEV charging hubs and initiating DashEV Carshare services to serve people within one to three miles of Greenville City Hall to include service to Unity Park, Nicholtown, etc.,” Payne said in a follow-up email to GSA Business Report.

Payne said the InnovaEV will try to emulate in Nicholtown the senior support model it established in Chicago’s Bronzeville community by providing DashEV rides for vital services and delivering packages.