Electrifying the transportation sector is an essential step to realizing a decarbonized economy.
Electrifying the transportation sector is an essential step to realizing a decarbonized economy. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for nearly one-third of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationally, surpassing annual emissions from electricity generation (historically the largest source of GHGs) in 2016.
To date, the electric vehicle (EV) market has mostly catered to vehicle purchasers with higher incomes. Even among those who can afford an EV, barriers to adoption include lack of information, higher initial cost, and limited charging infrastructure, all of which are heightened for underserved, traditionally marginalized, and lower-income communities. Ironically, these same communities often experience greater energy burdens, more pollution, and higher risks from environmental disasters made worse by climate change. In other words, many of the people suffering the worst consequences of historic energy use decisions are the least able to participate in one of the key means of transitioning to a cleaner future. In the US, some utilities and other organizations are working to address this inequity and find new and resourceful ways to make access to electrified transportation achievable for all.
DNV and DEFG recently hosted a webinar that brought together stakeholders from all over the country that have designed and implemented novel programs to bring electrified transportation to underserved communities. The five panelists represented utilities NV Energy, Puget Sound Energy, and Xcel Energy, as well as non-profit organizations E4TheFuture and Isles, Inc.
One common theme flowed through the entire discussion: that no single solution can ensure equitable access to electrified transportation. Rather, the challenge requires an array of solutions based on the specific needs of each community. EV ownership is not the only route to decarbonizing transportation; a variety of options, including micro-mobility solutions, short-term rentals, ride shares, shuttle services, and public transit can all contribute to reducing emissions from transportation. Indeed, shifting our collective focus away from individually owned and operated vehicles is a necessary step toward addressing climate change. Further, many individuals cannot afford their own vehicles—we need to ensure they can still reap the benefits of decarbonized transportation.
Another related, topical theme that emerged was the importance of sincere community outreach and stakeholder engagement. All of the panelists described how their organizations formed strong partnerships with others (often utilities partnering with non-utility organizations). Additionally, all connected with their targeted communities, listened, and adapted their offerings ensure the proposed solutions actually addressed community needs and wants.
Webinar attendees showed interest and raised questions on a broad array of topics, including:
- Financing: Who does and should pay for EV programs? What sources of funding are available (including grants)? How can we reach and engage unbanked populations?
- Metrics: What are the best ways to measure EV program success? Do metrics differ for programs with equity objectives vs. other programs?
- Socio-demographics: How do needs differ between rural and urban populations? What’s the appropriate mix of transportation solutions across modes?
- Innovations: How will vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions affect market adoption of EVs? Will we see more integration of EVs with other DERs (e.g., solar canopies coupled with EV chargers and/or battery storage)?