Increasing access to clean transportation options is not just about protecting the environment. A person’s commute time is the most critical factor in their chances of escaping poverty. An equitable transportation system must be designed to not only improve mobility, but also decrease pollution and  enhance economic opportunities -- particularly for low-income communities of color.

"A person’s commute time is the most critical factor in their chances of escaping poverty.” 

Harvard University



Exhaust from cars and trucks contributes to climate change, makes tens of thousands of Californians sick and costs us billions in avoidable health costs, with the worst effects often felt in low-income communities of color. Oil dependence means Californians have no place to turn when gas prices rise – which hurts low income families most. Electric cars and trucks can play a big part in solving these problems – if the people who need them can access them.

California boosts the market for electric cars, trucks, and buses by providing incentives, grants, carsharing, vanpool programs, and subsidizing the deployment of charging stations and upgrades to the electric grid. We work to ensure that all our communities – not just the wealthy – benefit from electric vehicles.

How are we doing this?

Greenlining was among the first to shine a spotlight on the obstacles to widespread adoption of electric cars and trucks in communities of color in our 2011 report, “Electric Vehicles: Who’s Left Stranded?” And we were part of a historic settlement between the California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy Inc., intended to make these clean vehicles more accessible in low-income communities. 

Through a series of landmark reports, we have helped build momentum for electric carsharing in underserved communities, ensuring that electric vehicles are available and affordable to all, and increased use of electric trucks and buses.

But that wasn’t nearly enough, so in 2014 Greenlining worked with the Coalition for Clean Air, Communities for a Better Environment, Environment California, and the Natural Resources Defense Council to pass Senate Bill 1275, the Charge Ahead California Initiative, introduced by Sen. Kevin de León (D – Los Angeles). As part of the Charge Ahead California campaign, we are now shaping implementation of this law, which aims to bring one million electric cars, trucks and buses to California by 2023. SB 1275 is creating programs to increase mobility and bring access to electric vehicle technology to low-income communities of color hit hardest by pollution and poverty and who often lack good transportation options.

EV Equity Programs

SB 1275 directs the California Air Resources Board to create equity programs that increase access to and use of electric vehicles among low- and moderate-income individuals.

CARB now funds the following projects:

  • Electric carsharing programs in disadvantaged communities
  • Low-income EV financing assistance programs (learn how this program helped Kendra Tramiel)
  • Vouchers for replacing gas-guzzling “clunkers” with new or used electric cars or with vouchers for transit and carsharing (learn about how this is helping families in the Central Valley)
  • Low and moderate income rebates within the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP)
  • One-Stop-Shop to streamline and improve access to clean transportation-related incentives
  • Clean technology vanpools for agricultural workers in the Central Valley

We continuously work with our Charge Ahead California campaign partners to secure state funding for these EV equity programs, promote their benefits and successes, and ensure their design and implementation eliminates barriers and maximizes electric vehicle access. 

EV Charging Infrastructure

Electric car and truck users urgently need convenient access to charging, and this continues to be a large barrier for working families. That’s why in 2015 we became involved in three utility applications at the California Public Utilities Commission seeking approval for deployment of over 90,000 charging ports throughout California --  successfully bringing charging stations to disadvantaged neighborhoods in settlements with San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric. Although the CPUC scaled down these pilots, our advocacy helped secure a minimum of 1,625 electric vehicle charging stations in disadvantaged and low-income communities throughout California—the single largest deployment of its kind. We participate in advisory committees for all three pilot programs to ensure that they meet the needs of low-income and disadvantaged communities.

We continue to advocate for equitable charging station investments at the CPUC, where utilities proposed $1 billion in transportation electrification projects in January of 2017, and at the California Energy Commission which awarded a grant to invest up to $200 million in electric vehicle charging station programs through 2022.



While electric cars help to reduce pollution, they cannot fix all of our transportation problems. Electric cars still contribute to congestion and auto-centric cities, while car ownership remains a financial burden for low-income households. We recognized that we needed a way to determine how electric vehicles fit into the wider mobility space.

Today there are a multitude of new mobility technologies and services available -- such as bikeshare, scootershare, carshare, Uber, and autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, these mobility services often fail to benefit low-income communities of color -- and in some cases disproportionately harm them. We observed that despite so many new mobility options available today, no mechanism existed to assess which options are the most equitable, sustainable, or best meet community-identified mobility needs. 


In order to develop a more comprehensive transportation strategy, we expanded our work into mobility -- with the goal of moving more people, not more cars. 

In 2018 we published the Mobility Equity Framework -- a tool to assess and compare various mobility options on measures of equity in a way that actually reflects the needs and voices of the community. Since then we have been working with local, regional, and state government to adopt elements of the framework across various policies and programs.

For years, we have engaged with CARB staff to think beyond funding just personal electric vehicles and embrace clean mobility projects that include people who don’t want or need to own a car -- projects like electric vehicle carshare, bikeshare, microtransit, and more. CARB has listened, and now funds the following projects in underserved communities:

As the field of self-driving cars has rapidly evolved, in 2019 we released  Autonomous Vehicle Heaven or Hell?, laying out how to make this mobility technology work for underserved communities -- and how to avoid harming them.

In 2019 we published the Making Equity Real in Mobility Pilots toolkit, which provides a roadmap for how cities and mobility companies can operationalize equity within a pilot project in an inclusive, culturally appropriate way.