• EV
  • EV Charging Infrastructure
  • Light Duty Vehicles
  • Zero-Emissions Vehicles

Ensuring Equity in the Transportation Transition: Part 1

Raquel Soat
Jan 07, 2020

EVs 3

The transportation sector is taking off by way of electrification and new mobility options. Completely electrifying the transportation sector would serve to benefit everyone with better air quality, leading to fewer health complications linked to poor air quality (e.g., asthma). This reduction in emissions would come from decreased oil usage from internal combustion engines and from the shift to more renewable energy on the utility side, where EVs source their power. To achieve a fully electrified transportation sector, it is imperative to make sure the transition is equitable and does not only benefit consumers in high income areas.

According to The Greenlining Institute, equity means “increasing access to power, redistributing and providing additional resources, and eliminating barriers to opportunity, in order to empower low income communities of color to thrive and reach full potential.” Low income and minority communities often experience inadequate transportation infrastructure. They are disproportionately located near highways and other transportation facilities, exposing them to heightened levels of pollution and subsequent health issues.

Equity in other parts of the transportation sector, like transit and micro-mobility, is crucial to creating a system where everyone has equal and affordable access to mobility. This blog series will focus primarily on equity issues related to light duty vehicle (LDV) electrification.

Inequity in LDV Electrification

At this point in the transportation revolution, EVs are still inaccessible for most consumer segments largely due to price and lack of vehicle availability. While vehicle availability is increasing across the US and purchase prices are decreasing (thanks in large part to purchase incentives and zero-emission vehicle mandates), low income and minority communities are still largely unable to afford EVs. According to Navigant Research, a Guidehouse company’s EV Consumer Profiles report, 62% of surveyed EV owners have an annual household income of over $75,000.

Education and awareness programs are popular tools used by stakeholders for increasing EV adoption. Until EVs are more affordable, however, targeting low income and minority communities for such programs will yield less adoption than working to reduce purchase price and other barriers to adoption.

Inequity in Public Charging Infrastructure

Stakeholders must consider equitable charging infrastructure implementation when designing EV plans and investing in EV supply equipment. Since the EV market is still taking off, public charging infrastructure installations occur in high income areas where consumers are more likely to purchase an EV (with the exception of California, where charging infrastructure is more developed). Installing chargers in areas where more EV adoption is likely makes good business sense and ensures higher usage, while installing charging infrastructure in lower income communities will yield significantly less usage at this time due to lower adoption rates.

To ensure equitable access moving forward, stakeholders and investors should install public charging infrastructure in low income and minority communities, and incentivize home charging options to make charging more accessible.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series, which discusses ways for stakeholders to equitably implement transportation electrification.