We must improve access to electric vehicles and EV infrastructure to ensure historically overburdened communities are benefitting from a clean energy economy. At last month’s EVs for Equity event, Environmental Justice Manager Daisha Williams met with residents of Charlotte’s Historic West End to discuss the growing economic, health, and sustainable opportunities around EV expansion. 

Daisha Williams, Environmental Justice Manager

by Daisha Williams

The electric revolution is accelerating. And with gas prices surging and pollution levels rising, there’s never been a better time to equip our communities with sustainable transportation options that improve our air and push our state towards a clean energy economy. 

This transition is especially imperative for low-income and BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who have disproportionately carried the burden of climate change and air pollution. BIPOC Americans are 75% more likely to live near highways, traffic, or other sources of harmful air emissions than are White Americans.

These same communities are also less likely to own a vehicle and therefore generate a small portion of vehicle pollution in our communities, yet they suffer disproportionately from vehicle pollution exposure overall. And with this increased exposure comes worse health outcomes such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and much more. 

Getting more electric vehicles on the road in and around these communities presents the opportunity to improve health outcomes by reducing emissions. While the Historic West End is chock-full of gas stations, there are only two charging stations in the entire community, which does not prepare residents for EV expansion. This is why installing EV charging stations is a major equity initiative of the Historic West End Green District. With more available stations, the community can begin to equip themselves with the proper infrastructure to enjoy the economic, health, and sustainable benefits that EVs bring. 

PoleVolt charging station at the Ritz at Washington Heights.

The recent installation of a PoleVolt charging station within the community has sparked optimism that the increased visibility of EV infrastructure will encourage drivers to consider EVs and the benefits of EVs. To keep this optimism going, CleanAIRE NC and the Historic West End Green District hosted an EVs For Equity event in the community. Residents had the opportunity to come out and learn about sustainable transportation and local electrification efforts

Residents were able to explore the wide variety of vehicles on display,  including the Nissan Leaf, Kia Niro, Tesla Model S Plaid edition, and Mitsubishi Outlander. Attendees also had an opportunity to connect with local EV drivers and experts about their own experiences with EVs, and to learn about currently available benefits, incentives, and programs for EV ownership.

However, the focus was not just on passenger EVs. There were also two models of the new EV bus provided by Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) which has plans to deploy this new fleet on routes within the Historic West. This is important because residents of the Historic West End often rely on public transportation to obtain essential services and get to their workplace. For example, 78% of Charlotte’s public transit ridership is Black. Thus, electrifying bus fleets represents an enormous impact on fighting climate change and mitigating air pollution in Black communities like the Historic West End. 

The event was the beginning of an important conversation with Historic West End residents. But it isn’t the end. This July, there will be a Clean Air Advocacy Training aimed at increasing understanding of air pollution in the Historic West End, and exploring opportunities for residents to engage in solutions that improve air quality the community. 

Improving electric vehicle infrastructure in communities of color will help us clean up local air quality while making sure our communities aren’t left out of the EV revolution. A true win-win for both health and equity! 

Media coverage of the EVs for Equity Event:

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