This article was co-authored by Stan Cross, SACE Electric Transportation Policy Director, and Dr. Shelley Francis, Co-Founder and Director of EVHybridNoire, the nation’s largest network of diverse electric vehicle drivers and enthusiasts.
Electric cars, trucks, and buses will deliver safer, cleaner, and cheaper transportation while spurring economic development and job opportunities. We must ensure that all North Carolinians can reap electric transportation benefits regardless of race, income, and geography.
For the past two years, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and EVHybridNoire (EVHN) have partnered to expand electric vehicle (EV) awareness in North Carolina, better understand consumers’ EV knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, and amplify underrepresented voices in order to inform North Carolina’s EV plans, policies, and programs.
The current transportation sector still reflects prejudice from decades of discriminatory policies, redlining of ethnically diverse neighborhoods, and highway building that broke apart previously thriving minority communities. Our research and engagement seek to understand how historic inequities shape the current transportation landscape across the state, particularly for Black, Latino/a, and communities grappling with environmental injustices.
For example, in the Raleigh region, EVHN examined Black and Latino/a residents’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences with transportation and EVs. The findings included insights:
- Black and Latino/a communities are generally interested in EVs
- Study participants expressed reliance on personal vehicles to meet mobility needs
- Latino/a participants shared the importance of carpooling in their community;
- Participants expressed concerns over public transportation limitations and language barriers;
- Black and Latino/a participants made it clear that messaging and the messenger matter because they want to learn about EVs from individuals who are reflective of their communities;
- Black women were more likely to own an EV compared to Black men
- There is a need for culturally appropriate education and outreach tailored to the specific needs of each community.
These nuanced understandings can help guide clean transportation planning, policies and programs to move the state toward an equitable and accessible EV future.
Equitable access to EV ownership is financially critical because as EVs go mainstream, not having access will put consumers at a disadvantage. Owning an EV saves consumers cash. We know because we drive EVs. Ask any EV driver and they’ll confirm that we save over $1,000 annually using electricity instead of gas. And the more expensive gas gets, the more we save driving on price-stable inexpensive electricity. Lower-income and rural communities stand to benefit the most, given that a higher percentage of their household income goes toward transportation expenses.
Owning an EV saves consumers cash. We know because we drive EVs. Ask any EV driver and they’ll confirm that we save over $1,000 annually using electricity instead of gas. And the more expensive gas gets, the more we save driving on price-stable inexpensive electricity.
As EV industry investment creates thousands of new jobs, it should be a priority to provide traditionally underserved communities access to these new employment opportunities. North Carolina is home to over 40 EV-related companies providing more than 13,300 jobs and growing. These businesses touch every part of the EV supply chain including manufacturing vehicles, building and installing charging stations, researching and producing batteries, and innovating hardware and software components. We need to invest in workforce training to ensure EV job opportunities touch every community in the state.
And when we talk about equal access to clean air, we acknowledge that, according to the American Lung Association’s review of over 700 scientific studies, gas and diesel tailpipe emissions cause many health risks, including childhood asthma, impaired lung function, and premature death. These risks intensify for lower-income and communities of color that disproportionately live in proximity to polluted air. Electric cars, trucks, and buses have zero tailpipe emissions, so prioritizing EV deployment where transportation pollution burdens are highest will deliver the most significant public health benefits.
We must seize this once-in-a-century innovation opportunity to realize the promise of a just and equitable electrified transportation system: a system that affords equal access to the financial savings, job opportunities, and public health benefits at hand. Anything less is unacceptable.