Research Brief

Expanding zero-emission mobility equity and access

December 10, 2019
Authors: Peter Slowik

This report summarizes the knowledge gathered from a series of listening sessions on expanding access to zero-emission vehicles commissioned and convened by the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance.

The listening series discussions revealed the profound importance of expanding zero emission mobility equity and access and provided clarity and insight on the key challenges and opportunities going forward. The road ahead to equitable and more inclusive ZEVs is a long, challenging, and critical one. Low-income communities and communities of color face disproportionate health impacts from climate change and environmental pollution, and ZEVs offer great potential to mitigate these impacts and improve public health. All ZEV policies should work to reverse these disparities, promote justice, and serve the most vulnerable populations.

Smarter policies can mitigate disparities and uplift those who have been left behind by influencing who can access the health and economic benefits of ZEVs. Providing equitable ZEV access requires intentional actions, and the focus must be on people and communities. Greater focus on the margins—not the mainstream—is needed, as these are the people who are most vulnerable and stand to benefit most. A targeted universalism approach—where strategies are specifically focused on the most marginalized groups are used to meet universal goals—can promote racial justice and accelerate ZEV growth simultaneously. If ZEVs can work for people with the greatest barriers, ZEVs can work for everyone else too.

It will be critical to view government policies and programs through the lens of community development. Real solutions will be those that are community driven and tailored to local contexts. Understanding communities, their mobility needs, and their unique ZEV barriers is a critical first step to providing equitable zero-emission mobility. There is no one size fits all solution, and governments need to engage, listen, and empower communities for success. Talking to communities and understanding their values, goals, and mobility needs are critical precursors to identifying and providing useful ZEV solutions.

Many opportunities, anecdotes, and recommendations for governments emerged from the five Listening Series topics summarized above. Several promising and inspiring efforts by NGOs, CBOs, utilities, and governments are underway, and the early examples provide lessons learned and serve as models for others going forward. The sections above also summarize specific opportunities and recommendations for governments to further promote equitable and expanded ZEV access by means of improving incentives, ensuring charging options for all, ensuring the economic ZEV benefits are widely experienced, and diversifying the market.

Beyond the specific opportunities regarding incentives, infrastructure, economic benefits, and communicating ZEVs, a more comprehensive approach to equity and inclusion is needed or there is risk of exacerbating these issues. Inequities and disparities can be perpetuated or worsened unless governments think through these issues in a holistic manner and embed equity from the start. There is a strong need to operationalize equity from the beginning with an uncompromising commitment to integrating equity within mission, objective, design, implementation, and evaluation. Governments will need to be intentional in their policymaking. Building internal capacity and education within government agencies should be an ongoing effort around the topics of racism, inequity, inclusion, and how governments play a role.

It is clear from the discussions that greater and complementary community outreach efforts are needed across the board. All government ZEV incentive, infrastructure, mobility, workforce development, and other programs would be more accessible to underserved communities when there is dedication to community engagement and outreach. Consultation, outreach, and engagement with disadvantaged communities and their CBOs are critical to help communities leverage government support and alleviate risk of ineffectiveness.

Focus Areas

Expanding ZEV access