Communities of Color and Electric Vehicles

In 2020, in New York’s Union Square, the climate clock went live. It was a digital clock noting how much time we have left, as a planet, to reverse the dangerous effects of climate change. In the beginning, we had just over seven years to change our behaviors and institutions, limiting global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius – a commonly accepted point-of-no-return among scientists. Ever since, the clock has ticked slowly downward, charting our general failure to address the climate crisis.

The vehicles we drive every day are significant contributors to the issue of climate change. Our car-dependent society has ensured as much. On every highway and byway, our automobiles spew chemicals and pollutants into the atmosphere. Of course, vehicular exhaust is cleaner today than in years past. Despite this federally spurred technological improvement, one thing hasn’t changed.

Communities of color disproportionately breathe in air pollution from cars.

Last year, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found that people of color face significantly higher rates of exposure to air pollution from cars and trucks compared to their white counterparts. This trend holds true across all racial demographics, but especially among the Black population. That group deals with 21% more pollutant exposure than white people. While industrial plants are the most common source of such toxins, vehicles of all types rank in the most frequent emitters of pollutants, especially in majority-minority areas.

There are a variety of factors creating this disparity. First, institutional racism has pooled minorities together through decades of redlining, community underinvestment, and financial discrimination. Additionally, poor healthcare and job opportunities, common trends in Black and Brown neighborhoods, creates an inherent risk to pollutant-related diseases, which cause hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. Whether you examine exposure, effects, or something in between, it’s clear that pollutants from vehicles is a major health risk for minorities and demands a solution.

Recently, the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act committed $7.5 billion to construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure, an effort that would be furthered by the passage of the Build Back Better bill.

The solution is staring us in the face. Now, we must make sure we act equitably and recognize the disparate impact of climate change on communities of color.

The Electric Vehicle Charging Initiative - A national collaboration to meet and exceed 500,000 charging stations nationwide

In this effort, Neighborhood FORWARD is attending the National EV Charging Summit, hosted by the National EV Charging Initiative, which is a diverse group of stakeholders concerned about our planet and its people. Building a national infrastructure for charging electric vehicles is our best means to combat climate change, spur technological innovation, and shield communities of color from the continued disproportionate impact of pollution. The summit will feature government officials, corporate leaders, and other signatories of the National EV Charging Initiative, all of whom will bring ideas to induce action from our institutions.

Not only do we hope that you’ll join the discussion, but we hope you agree that this issue is worthy of our attention, activism, and support. We’ve already seen our neighborhoods devastated by the degradation of our world; the least we can do is present a viable, equitable solution. To us, that’s electric vehicles.

Let’s help save the planet.

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