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Ensuring Equity in the Transportation Transition: Part 2

Raquel Soat
Jan 09, 2020

EVs 3

Part 1 of this blog series discussed equity issues facing the transportation electrification transition in the light duty vehicle segment and charging infrastructure installations. Ignoring equity when implementing transportation pilots or programs perpetuates inequalities. It is crucial that stakeholders working on transportation electrification efforts determine a plan of action for equity that is feasible to implement and avoids empty promises.

Creating an Affordable EV Market

Affordability is one of the biggest barriers to adoption for consumers—particularly consumers in low income and minority communities. Providing purchase incentives on a federal, state, and local level has helped move the EV market forward. However, those taking advantage of the incentives are primarily in higher income brackets and the incentives are used to purchase vehicles in the luxury segment. In December 2019, California implemented one of the first income-capped EV rebate programs by only allowing residents who make $150,000 or less to take advantage of the EV purchase rebate. Any vehicle with an MSRP of over $60,000 no longer qualifies for the rebate. These stipulations ensure the incentives are used primarily by those who need the purchase incentive to be able to afford an EV. 

The used car market makes purchasing a vehicle affordable for many people. To date, the EV market lacks a robust used car market due to the relatively low number of EVs on the road comparted to internal combustion engine vehicles. While this market is not likely to be robust enough in the next few years to accommodate those in lower income brackets considering the purchase of an EV, used EVs are expected to see an uptick by the mid-2020s. The expansion of this market will make EVs more affordable and accessible to those in low income and minority communities.

Creating Equitable Access to EV Charging Infrastructure

Most public charging infrastructure is in higher income areas where EV adoption is more prevalent. To move the market forward, investment in public charging infrastructure should include an equity lens. One way to ensure equitable access is to include equity requirements in any public infrastructure plan, such as requiring a certain percentage of chargers to be installed in low income areas. Pacific Gas and Electric’s EV Charge Network program launched in 2018 and required 15% of its planned 7,500 charging stations to be deployed in disadvantaged communities. Requiring a certain amount of charging infrastructure to be deployed in low income and minority communities increases access to EV charging and awareness of EV technologies.

Most consumers are expected to charge their vehicles at their residence, so ensuring home charging is accessible to disadvantaged communities is important as well. In low income communities, many people rent homes or a unit in a multi-unit dwelling, which provides additional challenges. Stakeholders such as municipal governments and utilities could offer purchase incentives for home chargers to make them more accessible. In terms of multi-unit dwelling charging incentive programs, San Diego Gas & Electric’s Power Your Drive program installed over 3,000 charging stations at multi-unit dwellings (such as apartments and condos) and workplaces, which increased accessibility of charging in areas with traditionally low amounts of charging infrastructure.

Keeping an Equity Lens

Maintaining an equity focus when implementing EV pilots and programs will allow for higher EV adoption rates and greater access to electrified transportation. Additionally, it allows those living in low income and minority communities to become more aware of EV technologies in a practical way. The transportation electrification transition will only be complete when stakeholders ensure equitable access to all components of the EV market.