Focusing on EV charging along corridors exacerbates equity issues

By Megan Link 

Federal initiatives to fund electric vehicle infrastructure, like the NEVI program, encourage EV chargers along highway corridors, and also promote equitable distribution of the infrastructure. According to a new study, however, these two goals may be at odds. Evidence suggests the corridor-based approach is not leading to particularly equitable outcomes. 

To integrate equity into the application process, federal programs encourage applicants to use the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The tool is designed to determine which communities meet various equity thresholds. It is part of the larger Justice40 effort, an initiative where 40% of new infrastructure is to be directed toward communities that meet certain equity thresholds. We’ve discussed in other blogs the barriers to implementing these statewide programs while also addressing local needs. 

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Greensboro conducted a nationwide assessment to understand EV charging trends through an equity lens. They concluded that being in an alternative fuel corridor is the most important indicator of whether a census tract will have an EV charger. Tracts in corridors have around 167% more chargers, on average, and 433% more fast chargers. Rural census tracts in alternative fuel corridors have at least 900% more fast chargers, compared to other rural tracts. 

Unfortunately, the researchers also found that 60% to 80% of census tracts in the United States have no public EV charging, and tracts with larger Black populations are even less likely to have charging infrastructure. They note: 

“If efficiency is the goal, then corridor charging may be the solution—but if equity and fairness are the objective function, then a new approach needs to be found to address the accessibility, equity, and spatial implications revealed by this research.”

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