President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal, reached in late July, passed in early August after the Senate closed debate on the bill. The $550 billion plan includes $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure, demonstrating that the White House has recognized that the United States must compete with China and other nations to secure its EV supply chains—and a strong way to do that is to encourage consumer adoption.
On the back of the infrastructure agreement, Biden announced an executive order last week detailing a target of 40-50 percent electric vehicle sales share by 2030, making EVs central to the future of the auto industry. The plan prompted a mixture of criticism and praise from environmental, union, and industry groups.
The auto industry, meanwhile, appears to back Biden’s order, provided the President, as well as state and local officials, provide support for rolling out EV charging infrastructure and offering more consumer incentives. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the auto industry’s largest trade group, maintained that its members were “poised to accept the challenge” of 40-50 percent EV sales by 2030, only if the government responded sufficiently. Jessica Caldwell, of auto-data firm Edmunds, argues that “Possibly the biggest hurdle ahead is consumer acceptance: What will it take for Americans to be willing to change their car ownership habits to go electric?”
Only 9.7 percent of households in U.S. cities have access to a public EV charging station within one-quarter of a mile from home.
That question was what researchers from Mobilyze.ai, a location analytics firm, had in mind. Their report this month finds that only 9.7 percent of households in U.S. cities have access to a public EV charging station within one-quarter of a mile from home. The study also shows that in Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Boston, the percentage of Black people living within a 5-minute walk of a charging station is at least 20 percent lower than in the rest of the city.
With EVs only comprising 3 percent of auto sales, stronger incentives are necessary to support widespread EV adoption—especially in lower-income and minority communities. Currently, charging stations are being built in areas where EV adoption is highest, which tends to concentrate in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. Analysis from Drive Dominion, a research firm, found that there are more Teslas registered in the wealthy 92130 ZIP code of Carmel Valley, San Diego, than in all but two others in California, Palo Alto and Orange County. Despite providing savings in the long run, the initial price of EVs remain a major barrier for residents in these neighborhoods.
Thus far, lacking expansive federal incentives for EV adoption, more ambitious efforts to support EV adoption in disenfranchised communities have been at the local level. In July, Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority announced an incentive program for the building of fast charging stations, home charging stations, and workplace charging stations. Importantly, homeowners and owners of apartment complexes and businesses who install the equipment in low-income and distressed communities will receive the largest incentives.
Low-income areas and communities of color are also less likely to have a garage or carport, which creates a significant barrier to at-home EV charging. The Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC), an energy and environmental non-profit in Kansas City, has undertaken a project to reduce these barriers. MEC is overseeing a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, in conjunction with many other public and private partners, to install EV chargers on existing streetlights, which anyone can pay a fee to use.
One direct tool the federal government can also offer today is to reform the light-duty EV tax credit. Offering EV buyers the option of an alternative $7,500 rebate instead of a $7,500 tax credit would encourage the adoption of passenger EVs, particularly in low-income areas.