Electric cars

Thirty new zero-emissions electric vehicles are arriving to expand UC Irvine┬┐s ZEV-NET ride-sharing program at an Irvine train station. (Courtesy UC IRVINE / March 21, 2013)

A UC Irvine project designed to cut pollution out of the last leg of a commute is expanding with 30 new zero emissions cars, the campus announced Thursday.

The Zero Emission Vehicle-Network Enabled Transport, or ZEV-NET, provides battery powered cars to commuters arriving at the Irvine Transportation Center who need a way to cover the final distance to a nearby office or the UCI campus.

Since 2002, UCI staff and employees of companies that enroll in the program can use one of the electric vehicles for the day after their train arrives.

"We actually initiated the program because we thought it's something that could be expanded as a business model," said Shane Stephens-Romero, who helps manage the program.

It started with 16 electric RAV4s and was down to about 10 vehicles before UCI acquired the 2013 Scion iQs through a partnership with Toyota.

Now those cars are being outfitted with the program's reservations system and incorporated into the fleet, which is in demand, Stephens-Romero said, explaining that just about every car is checked out on a daily basis.

Most of the cars are used by employees of companies like Oakley, Thales and Kofax that pay $6,000 a year for access to two vehicles.

"We have fluctuated up and down in terms of the number of companies we've had enrolled at any given time," Stephens-Romero said.

The new cars arrive in conjunction with a expansion of the program at the Irvine Transportation Center on Barranca Parkway.

There will soon be more parking spaces and power charges for ZEV-NET there.

"It's kind of nice because it comes at a time when we've also finalized an agreement with the city of Irvine at the train station," Stephens-Romero said.

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck