Electric Vehicle Consumer Adoption

TheAccelerationPartnerProgram:HowBusinessesCanDriveMobilityCultureShift

Smart Columbus

November 17th, 2020

Post by Donna Marbury, Smart Columbus Storyteller

Smart Columbus is taking a unique approach to increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption by partnering with the private sector to help employees choose a more sustainable way to get to work. Through innovative education and incentive programs, Smart Columbus and its employer partners are reducing congestion and emissions while also addressing equity.

In late 2017, Smart Columbus launched the Acceleration Partner program to organize and rally private sector partners to a series of five commitments that would result in employees driving electric and relying less on personal vehicles. To date, 70 companies have signed on to help drive the culture change that will allow our region to grow smart.

“There’s a lot of energy and excitement throughout OhioHealth when it comes to the Smart Columbus initiatives. We’ve installed more than 50 charging stations across our system, we’re piloting benefits and programs to decrease single occupancy vehicles, and we’ve added an electric vehicle to our fleet with plans for more in the near future,” says Terri W. Meldrum, Esq., Senior Vice President and General Counsel for OhioHealth. “As a healthcare organization, we see it as a win-win for everyone: decreased tailpipe emissions, clearer air and engagement of our associates in making Columbus a healthier community for all of us.”

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1. Empowered company leaders drove change

Each of the 70 employers committed to the program assigned an executive sponsor to direct the company’s engagement in Smart Columbus and empower cross-functional teams to fulfill their organization’s program commitments. Participating companies also identified a mobility ambassador, to lead internal programming.

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2. Leaders and companies went electric

CEO members of the Columbus Partnership and Acceleration Partner company executives were challenged to support the initiative by buying an EV themselves. Fifty Columbus executives are now driving electric. Also, companies were offered assistance to transition corporate fleet vehicles to EVs.

“I believe that it is our collective responsibility to protect the environment, and we can each make choices—both large and small—that help protect and ensure our children’s future. For my family, driving an electric vehicle has been an easy and significant way to reduce our footprint and teach our kids that every action helps!” says Doug Ulman, President and CEO of Pelotonia.

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3. Major worksites installed EV charging

The availability of workplace charging is a considerable driver of consumer EV purchases. Since Smart Columbus started, 61 work sites have installed over 375 EV charging ports in the Columbus region.

Huntington installed 20 EV charging ports, joining AEP Ohio and Abercrombie & Fitch in offering dozens of charging ports at worksites. Alliance Data recently installed 28 EV charging ports and upgraded 20 ports to newer models.

“We believe in the strength and power of public-private partnerships, and through Smart Columbus, we introduced electric vehicle charging stations at our Gateway and Easton facilities, as well as several of our branches. Our environmental management system, commitment to green buildings and other initiatives speak to our broad-based approach to environmental sustainability,” says Sue Zazon, Huntington’s Regional President for Central Ohio.

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4. Educated employees on smart mobility options

Companies were asked to send their senior leadership and key team members through the 2017 Smart Columbus Live series to learn about the Smart Columbus initiative. In total, 1,500 residents from 350 unique organizations attended, with dozens more hosting presentations for their associates. Acceleration Partners also hosted Smart Columbus’ record-breaking Ride & Drive Roadshow, which put nearly 12,000 residents behind the wheel of an EV. More than 80 percent of the program’s events were held at workplaces.

“Through our partnership with Smart Columbus, we have dramatically increased awareness and adoption of EVs among our associate population,” says Rob Corron, Vice President of Real Estate for Alliance Data. “Our associates have enjoyed learning through direct access to
EVs during our popular Ride & Drive events, and our incentive program has driven our EV count to 35, up from only four just two-and-a-half years ago. The growth has driven us to create an EV community for establishing sharing guidelines for our free charging stations.”

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5. Created new mobility benefits for employees

Thirty-one companies partnered with Smart Columbus to create mobility benefit programs to help associates get to work reliably, sustainably and affordably. White Castle extended subsidized bus passes to all employees. Fahlgren Mortine reduced solo car commutes by 48 percent in one week through an internal carpooling match program. Alliance Data offered rebates that helped 16 employees buy an EV through a short-term incentive program. State Auto and 20 other companies launched microtransit services for their employees. All of these programs complement and enhance programs sponsored by the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District to promote alternative mobility options.

“We have always been a family- owned business where we put our team members first, and we have a lot of benefits. With mobility benefits being something different that we haven’t done before, our leader- ship was curious to conduct a pilot and discover the potential impact. Benefits we created in partnership with Smart Columbus are now helping with recruiting and retention, and with making sure team members have a reliable way to work,” says Shannon Tolliver, Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability Manager for White Castle.

Read more about Smart Columbus employer engagement tactics in the Acceleration Partner Final Report.

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