The transition to electrified transportation is a significant technological and social evolution that’s on par with the Industrial Revolution, the New Deal, and the more modern digitalization of all things. The consequences will have long-lasting effects on our economy and our built environment. The Senate’s approval of the bill is bipartisan. It marks a significant milestone in the nation’s journey towards sustainable transportation, with $7.5 billion allocated to build charging stations across the country and another $7.5 billion for the transition of public transport, including buses, to zero-emission alternatives. As we begin the goal of increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs), everyone involved in the transition must ensure that everyone has equal access to the advantages.
LACK OF EVS HAS DISPROPORTIONATE EFFECTS
Numerous studies have demonstrated the effects of climate change and pollution on the poor or BIPOC communities. For instance, Black Americans are 75 percent more likely than Whites to reside in areas close to commercial establishments that cause noise and odor, traffic, or emissions directly affecting the people living there. Within the U.S., non-Hispanic white individuals are subjected to 17 percent less exposure to air pollution triggered by their consumption of products and services. However, Black and Hispanic people breathe in more than 63 percent and 56 percent of excess exposure, respectively, concerning the consumption they make. The median household income in the New York City borough of the Bronx is 40,088 (compared to $86,553 in the predominantly wealthy Manhattan). Hospitalizations of asthma patients are more than five times that of the national average due to the proximity to 4 major roads. Electric vehicles will certainly enhance health outcomes. However, there are just 17 EV charging stations in the Bronx Bronx’s 1.4 million inhabitants.
Although EVs have become more affordable to the general public thanks to incentives offered by the government in the form of battery technology and used vehicles entering the market, the accessibility to charging stations remains a significant obstacle. Installing home setting systems is expensive, and there are more options for moderate-to-low-income people living in apartments or affordable housing. Consider that more than two-thirds of tenants need garages or carports. Currently, most EV stations are situated in areas with higher-end shops that might cause them to be difficult or impossible to access for middle- to low-income people, based on the location of their stations in relation to their homes or the kinds of businesses hosting the stations.
EXPANDED PASSENGER CHARGING IS PICKING UP SPEED
Some cities are intensifying efforts to increase charging services. One pilot program is located in Kansas City. The city ., Texas energy utility Austin Energy has secured government support to create an affordable program that provides unlimited access to charging ports through an annual fee of $4. Involving the community is vital for initiatives like this to achieve genuine equity. The people who organized this Kansas City pilot held virtual community meetings and paid all participants for their time. They presented possible charging infrastructure sites and collected comments on whether these sites might or may not be a good fit for the community.
Changing our perceptions of EVs as a status symbol for eco-conscious wealthy consumers is equally important. A study conducted in 2017 by the California Air Resources Board found that EV use was growing at a higher rate in areas that experienced the first adoption, suggesting that socioeconomic status and exposure play an important role. As with the diversity issue in the tech industry, we must improve the representation of electric vehicle owners. Much of this is due to the automakers’ community engagement programs and advertising campaigns and an emphasis on the environment, health, and financial and community benefits.
WHAT ABOUT COMMERCIAL AND PUBLIC FLEETS?
Although the majority of attention is on passenger EVs, electrifying fleets will have a more significant impact in tackling climate change while reducing adverse effects that disproportionately affect communities with low incomes and BIPOC communities. Because of corporate sustainability requirements and the favorable price of owning EVs, as well as the increasing need for medium to heavy-duty vehicles, will soon exceed the demands of cars for passengers. The massive electrical requirement for commercial electric fleets will strain the already stressed grid. This is why the on-site generation of electricity storage, demand-side management, and storage are required in conjunction with charging stations to provide a cost-effective and reliable energy supply. Compared to passenger EV charging, constructing this infrastructure will require more significant effort by utilities, capital markets, and the private sector. But, speedy development is crucial to ensure that the advantages of electrification are shared relatively, which is different. Not only will charging stations along important highways reduce emissions and pollution in areas where large numbers of poor and BIPOC communities are located, but it will also increase the availability of EV charging in rural areas, where vehicles typically have to traverse to get there.
The primary focus of funding and incentives previously geared towards consumers must be extended to commercial companies and municipal entities, who are moving more and more public buses to electric. For example, the two major transit agencies, LA Metro and New York City MTA, The two biggest transit fleets in the United States, have plans to switch to electric buses in 2030 and 2040respectively.
Because families with low incomes frequently depend on public transport for transportation to their workplaces, take their children to school, and avail essential services, increasing accessibility to affordable, clean, and efficient transportation is a cornerstone of a fair society. Like commercial fleets, electric buses are equipped with complicated energy requirements only met through developing robust charging and energy infrastructures on site.
With the rise of energy-as-a-service providers that concentrate on enhancing the performance of vehicles, real property developers, commercial fleet owners, and municipalities now have viable and low-risk ways to deploy charging infrastructure with no upfront cost. This cooperation and innovation business model across sectors will enable rapid electrification and equal access.
SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The 1990s and early 2000s technological revolution pushed many people into the dark of employment, access, and distribution of wealth. This had consequences that the industry continued to wrestle with. The transition to electrified transportation offers the chance to establish equity initially and empower more people to be involved in economic growth. Electricity creates diverse jobs throughout the value chain, including manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and operations. It also creates more opportunities for workers working in nearby and supporting industries. Consider New York, for example. A recent study estimates that electric transportation (ET) job opportunities in the State will increase by 32 percent by 2024. Eight hundred eighty-two companies currently employ over 4,200 ET-related employees across 61 counties. It’s good news that the Biden Administration is proposing policies to promote clean energy jobs in the United States, bolstering the supply chain of America’s electric vehicle manufacturers and accelerating the adoption of renewable energy. It’s also the responsibility of companies, utilities, local government, and advocacy organizations to ensure that we’re employing the correct funding models, messaging, and engagement strategies with equity at the heart of it.