Americans are hurt by high prices at the pump and the cost of energy continues to rise and contributes to inflation, while the global addiction to fossil fuels also helps to fund Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Eliminating our dependence on oil and gas, while reducing air and climate pollution, is critical not just for the environment, but for national and global security.
In the United States, we can invest in electric vehicles (EVs) and create good paying green jobs to be a global leader in the transition away from fossil fuels. That’s why we support President Biden’s commitment to prioritizing investments and clean vehicle standards to accelerate deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure.
EVs are significantly cheaper to maintain and power compared to filling up cars with gasoline, and they produce zero emissions. However, too many low-income Americans who need use of a car–for needs that often can’t be met by many public transit systems –are unable to access an EV. These same communities, predominantly communities of color, face some of our nation’s worst air quality as cars and trucks pollute neighborhoods divided by freeways.
To invest in EV infrastructure in disadvantaged communities that experience disproportionate air pollution, and to help ensure everyone can access zero-emission cars, we have worked together to develop the EVs For All Act, introduced in February in the United States House of Representatives. This bill will establish a $50 million annual grant program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support EV car sharing and charging for public housing residents. The program would provide up to $1 million to eligible housing authorities across the United States, enabling investments in EV charging station infrastructure at or near public-housing, while supporting community education, outreach, and funding to make EVs accessible for residents.
The investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021 provide $7.5 billion for EV charging and additional funds for EV buses. However, we also need to address the needs of low-income communities where charging stations do not exist, and many families need occasional access to a car. Providing access to EVs and installing charging stations in low-income communities will also help reduce the number of polluting gas-powered cars on our roads and highways. EVs for All can help meet President Biden’s pledge to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.
We know this program is needed and can work. Why? Because the EVs for All bill is based on the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)’s innovative and successful EV car share pilot at the Rancho San Pedro public housing complex near the Port of Los Angeles. LACI, in partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, launched the pilot program to provide a clean mobility option for the more than 1,400 residents of the public-housing complex. Residents who subscribe to the car-sharing service are mostly transit-dependent. Providing access to subsidized shareable EVs makes it easier for these residents to get to job interviews, take family members to medical appointments, take trips to the store for groceries and visit family in communities throughout the LA Metro area. EV car sharing provides essential mobility while relieving financial stress for low-income residents.
Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, sustainable communities program director at GreenLatinos warned in a recent The Hill op-ed “charging deserts disproportionately impact majority non-white and lower income neighborhoods,” creating barriers to EV acceptance in wide swaths of urban America. This legislation will bring greater equity to the distribution of EV charging infrastructure.
Creating economic opportunity and accelerating the zero-emissions future requires that every family, regardless of income, is included in the EV transformation. The EVs for All Act would provide resources for low-income community members in public housing across the country who are often left without access to climate and clean air solutions.
Congress and the Biden Administration need to increase investments in EV charging, electric school and transit buses, and public transit. Prioritizing initiatives like EVs for All will help ensure everyone has access to EVs to meet critical needs while reducing pollution, whether or not they can afford to own a car. Environmental justice is about fairness and is an essential ingredient to sustainable economic progress and the goals we all share: Cleaning the air, fighting the climate crisis, and providing opportunities for communities to be self-sufficient.
Nanette Barragán represents the 44th District of California. Matt Petersen is president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.