ICYMI (in case you missed it), last week we launched a comprehensive online toolkit, “Electric Vehicles for All: An Equity Toolkit,” aimed at helping advocates, public officials, and corporate executives throughout the nation bring electric vehicle benefits to communities most impacted by poverty and pollution.
Electric vehicles fight pollution and climate change because they produce fewer carbon emissions than gasoline powered cars, even when accounting for emissions from manufacturing and charging EVs. EVs also cost less to fuel up and maintain than conventional cars, helping EV owners save money. These benefits make it important to create policies that help underserved communities access EV technology—because they are hit hardest by transportation-related pollution and spend a disproportionate amount of their income on gas and public transit fares.
We designed the toolkit to help users make EVs a reality for underserved communities by providing tools, tips, and resources. In particular, five important steps can make sure EV benefits reach all communities:
STEP 1: Making EVs Affordable
The first obvious barrier for low-income consumers to buy EVs is cost. A new Nissan Leaf costs $29,010, about $9,000 more than a similar gasoline-powered model like the Nissan Juke. And although prices of EVs are dropping fast, low-income consumers still need financial assistance to buy one. What few people know is that used EVs represent a gold mine of an opportunity right now. For example, you can get a used, reliable, 2012 Nissan Leaf with under 50,000 miles for $10,000 or less.
Equitable EV policies and programs use tools like vouchers, rebates, and financing assistance programs to bring EV costs down for low-income consumers.
STEP 2: Making EVs Practical and Accessible
When figuring out how to help low-income folks get into EVs, it’s important to find out what kind of EV access makes sense for them. Is the target underserved community in a rural area that relies a lot on individual car ownership to get around? Or is the target community located in a dense, urban area with good public transportation—thus less dependent on individual car ownership but potentially benefitting from a carsharing model? Advocates and officials need to consider the mobility needs of the target community when figuring out what kind of EV access is practical or whether it is needed at all.
Equitable EV policies and programs help secure charging infrastructure in underserved communities and help low-income individuals apply for financial incentives through things like technical assistance and easy to use applications.
STEP 3: Increase EV Awareness
Although EV adoption keeps growing across the country, many people still know very little about EVs. This is especially true in low-income communities and communities of color which have received little attention from EV marketing efforts.
Effective community engagement regarding EVs will require trusted messengers. Partnering with community-based organizations will help build trust and ensure EV materials and messages are culturally sensitive, relevant and available in key languages.
Public officials also lack familiarity with EV benefits and EV incentives that might be available in their area. To be successful, EV awareness campaigns should also educate public officials—especially public officials of color or public officials representing large numbers of low-income communities and communities of color.
STEP 4: Incentivize Auto Dealers to Sell EVs
Auto dealers act as gatekeepers to EVs and can be important partners in increasing EV access in underserved communities. But too often, auto dealers know little about how EVs work, their benefits, or available incentives. Dealers also make less money on EVs than on gas powered vehicles because EVs need less maintenance and parts. For example, EVs don’t require routine oil changes or parts like air filters and gaskets.
Equitable EV policies and programs help educate auto dealers on EV benefits and incentives, especially incentives for low-income consumers. Additionally, equitable EV policies and programs provide financial incentives to auto dealers for selling EVs to low-income consumers.
STEP 5: Diversify the EV Market
As transportation electrification continues to grow, so will jobs in EV manufacturing, repair and maintenance, charging station installation, and other related jobs. Lots of businesses that provide goods and services to EV companies stand to benefit greatly from a growing EV market as well.
An inclusive, diverse, and equitable EV market must ensure underserved community members have access to job training programs that build in-demand skills. Underserved community members must be prioritized in hiring by using mechanisms like local and targeted hiring. Companies in the EV market must focus on diversifying their entire workforce—from janitors and assemblers to electrical engineers and executives. EV companies must buy services and goods from diverse-owned businesses so that the economic opportunities they produce reach many businesses and people.
Missing the mark on creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable EV market and clean energy economy can further widen the racial wealth gap in America and lock workers of color out of a chance at economic stability and prosperity.
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Please check out our toolkit for a deeper look at tools, guides, tips, and resources that ensure low-income communities and communities of color benefit from the EV revolution and are not left behind.