Starting August 1, BCAA’s subsidiary Evo is launching 80 of their Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles in downtown Victoria and Vic West, giving Victoria residents a new way to get around town.
“We’re really excited to be in Victoria,” Dave Wharf, Evo’s senior manager of business operations, told the Martlet. “I think it’s going to be a really cool option for residents.”
The service has been in operation in Vancouver since 2015, and operates a “home zone” extending from downtown Vancouver into North Vancouver, with parking spaces at UBC, SFU, BCIT, Capilano University, Park Royal, Metrotown, and Vancouver Airport.
As someone from Victoria, Wharf thought that the city would be a natural fit for Evo. Besides having plenty of people who live and work downtown, thus precluding them from needing a car full-time, it also has a young population.
“It’s a university town,” he said. “So you’re going to have a young population at the university, and that population is one of our main users.”
Following an agreement with the City of Victoria, the company has set up a home zone between Foul Bay Road in the Oak Bay neighborhood, Harriet Road in Vic West, and Tolmie Avenue on the border with Saanich. Satellite home zones will be set up at UVic and Camosun’s Lansdowne campus.
Vehicles are stored in the home zone and can be driven anywhere within Canada but must be returned to the home zone at the end of the trip.
“You could take the car up to Tofino if you wanted to,” said Wharf. “And when you wanted to end that trip, you’d have to bring it back to the home zone inventory.”
The service also allows users to park in most metered spots for free, as well as all residential and permit-only parking spots. In Victoria, Evo has advised drivers to avoid 20-minute parking spots and Beacon Hill Park. Commercial loading zones are also off limits.
Users are able to sign up now on Evo’s website by paying a $35 activation fee and signing a user agreement. Rates will then range from 41 cents a minute to $89.99 a day. There is also a $1 fee for the first 200 trips each year. Parking, gas, and insurance are included.
The Evo app allows users to find vehicles, unlock vehicles, and end their trip. It also contains a map showing the home zone and acceptable parking spots. A key fob located in the glove compartment allows drivers to pause their trip without ending it.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Wharf says that Evo has expanded the cleaning of vehicles between each use, and has a tracking system that allows them to find out when one of their vehicles is used to receive a COVID test. Hand sanitizer has also been placed in each vehicle.
“We have teams that go around and they relocate vehicles, clean vehicles and fuel vehicles, what we did is we just really focused on the cleaning primarily on the inside of vehicles,” said Wharf. “If the outside is a little dirty, that’s okay.”
During the height of the pandemic, Evo cars were made available to healthcare workers for travel to and from the hospital.
As for how the service differs from other car-sharing services, Wharf says that it is the flexibility of Evo which sets it apart from other companies such as Modo.
“Where we differ is that you can basically find our vehicles anywhere and use your app to start your trip, get in, drive it, and then you can leave it wherever you want,” said Wharf.
Wharf also says that the hybrid nature of Evo’s fleet is well suited for the environmentally conscious in Victoria. Although he said they would love to switch to a fully electric fleet, it is easier from an operations standpoint to remain with hybrids for now.
He says the response from Victoria has been positive so far despite the fact that COVID-19 has forced them to primarily advertise only online.
“Normally, what we would do is we come into the market and we would have a real presence,” said Wharf. “Obviously, with COVID, we can’t do that.”
Evo is currently offering a free 100-minute trial and free membership for those who want to try out the service. Wharf says that he is excited about what is to come.
“I know that there’s a city that needs something like this,” he said. “Basically what Evo does is it adds an added mobility option.”