Electric Vehicles for All

By Isabelle Jeng, Environmental Reporter

On Feb. 9, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán introduced the Electric Vehicles for Underserved Communities Act of 2021, or EVs for All Act, a bill that will provide grants to fund the expansion of access to electric vehicles to those living in underserved communities, especially those residing in public housing projects. 

The grants will fund: 

  1. The purchase of EVs manufactured in the last five years
  2. The purchase, installation, and maintenance of EV charging facilities 
  3. Community education and outreach of these services
  4. Incentives for residents of public housing projects to use these services including subsidized fares
  5. Maintenance, repairs, and other costs associated with operating such service, including towing, impound, and driving infraction fines. 
  6. Monitoring, data collection, and evaluation of the service. 
  7. Technical assistance relating to the establishment, operation, and evaluation of such services

The bill will allow each eligible public housing project to receive up to $1 million to operate a community EV ridesharing program as a result of the authorized $50 million in annual appropriations from 2022-2031. The Congresswoman introduced this bill in hopes that it will be adopted nationwide. 

Barragán says, “The success of our clean energy future requires that every resident, regardless of income, is included in the electric vehicle transformation. The EVs for All Act would provide resources for low-income residents in my district and around the country that are often left out of climate solutions. Congress must lead the way in ensuring that everyone has access to electric vehicles and clean air, including people who can’t afford to own a car.”

Currently, one highly successful local model of an EV ridesharing program is that of Envoy Technologies, a Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) company in Rancho San Pedro that “provides on-demand electric vehicles, electric bicycles, and electric scooters as an amenity to apartments, office buildings, and hotels.”

The Envoy There app can be used to reserve and pay for in advance short-term rentals, from just one hour up to a few days, of an EV, with rates as low as just $3 an hour. The Envoy website offers extensive information and easy-to-understand videos on how to unlock, start, operate, and charge the EVs. Envoy quickly gained significant traction in Rancho San Pedro, one of the most polluted communities in the South Bay. 

Barragán emphasizes that “too many communities of color face disproportionate air pollution yet completely lack access to EV charging infrastructure or zero emission vehicles” despite the fact that “operating EVs is much less expensive than operating gasoline-powered vehicles.” 

One of the notable points of success of this EV-ridesharing program is the passion and ambition of community leaders. For example, in the small rural town of Huron, located over fifty miles from Fresno, Mayor Rey León spearheaded a sort of EV-ridesharing program, the Green Raiteros, that predates the likes of Uber and Lyft, made possible with funding from state climate programs.

Huron’s residents utilize the program’s fleet of nine electric vehicles at no cost to themselves. For an isolated migrant farm-working community, this is a relieving alternative to the public transportation limitations in their community. 

The success of Green Raiteros is attributed to León’s vision, just like how when Envoy launched, local organizers took it upon themselves to identify the specific needs of their respective community in order to effectively introduce the new initiative, such as by ensuring that direct support was available in the native language of the community. 

At press time the EVs for All Act had not been passed by the House committee. Follow its progress here

Special thanks to Al Sattler for his assistance with this article

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