Ensuring a Just Transition to Electric Vehicles in California

By: Christopher Jackson
July 5, 2020
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Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes
Curbside electric vehicle charging (Source: Pixabay).
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While climate change and air pollution are global threats, local policy solutions play a critical role in mitigating them. For example, many states looking to decarbonize their transportation sector have turned to zero-emission vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs). In particular, California has set an ambitious goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030. More recently, policymakers have required all new trucks sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. However, California is encountering a challenge that many other local governments will soon face - while electric vehicles are often cost-competitive, a lack of charging infrastructure is prohibiting their widespread adoption. In particular, disadvantaged, low-income communities face higher barriers to access to charging infrastructure while simultaneously being disproportionately harmed by local vehicle air pollution.

As a member of the Science Policy Group at Berkeley, I recently published a memo for policymakers seeking recommendations on how to ensure that marginalized communities have access to EV charging infrastructure. Targeted specifically at the barriers to reaching California’s state goals, the memo recommends that California lawmakers and state agencies take several measures. First, I argue that building codes should be updated to require that at least 10% of parking spaces include EV charging stations in multi-unit dwellings, which disproportionately house low-income communities. Second, I suggest that local governments should work with utilities to develop curbside EV charging stations that take advantage of existing electrical infrastructure. Finally, I recommend that the state can institute an EV charger rebate program for residential and commercial customers to financially incentivize the installation of more charger stations. I emphasize that these policies can also be adapted in other states and local municipalities to increase EV adoption rates and facilitate a just transition for low-income communities.

Creating equitable public policies require input from local community stakeholders. Community members with STEM backgrounds, even those without specific expertise working with EVs or infrastructure, can help their local governments identify best practices for deployment. To help you get started, ESAL’s Local Engagement Playbook provides step-by-step guides on topics such as delivering public comments and meeting with state legislators.

For more information, the full policy brief is available here. Christopher Jackson is a member of the Science Policy Group at Berkeley and the author of the brief.

Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) is a non-advocacy, non-political organization. The information in this post is for general informational purposes and does not imply an endorsement by ESAL for any political candidates, businesses, or organizations mentioned herein.
Published: 07/5/20
Updated: 09/19/22
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