Equitable Transportation: Why It Matters

Originally published in June 2021 - Clean Energy Storyteller. Coauthored by Janelle Martin and Chris Maxwell.


Communities of color are generally left out of the conversation when it comes to e-mobility. Most people think of Elon Musk/Tesla or see dollar signs when they hear the term electric vehicle (EV). But how do black, brown, and indigenous populations (BIPOC) factor in? There’s so much to be discussed regarding underserved populations: the lack of education on EVs, charging deserts, and the obvious, affordability. Thankfully, discourse on electrification and e-mobility is swiftly changing, especially in terms of equitable transportation, and EV Hybrid Noire is at the forefront.

EV Hybrid Noire, based out of Atlanta and Los Angeles, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization focused on e-mobility within diverse populations and is the nation’s largest network of diverse EV drivers and enthusiasts. Cofounded by Dr. Shelley Francis and Terry Travis, EV Hybrid Noire’s primary efforts engage African American, Latinx, and BIPOC communities through research analysis, outreach, and education. With several chapters nationwide (including one right here in the Triangle) and even international, EV Hybrid Noire successfully spreads EV knowledge to communities of color through Ride and Drive events, HBCU partnerships, as well as through their Summer Stem Academy, Drive the Future STEM/STEAM, for the younger generation. Their member network is also a safe space to connect with other EV enthusiasts of color. Even if one is not an EV owner, it provides a platform for people of color to hear about electric vehicles from people who look just like them.

Equity Program Associate of EV Hybrid Noire, Corshonda Johnson, facilitates their outreach efforts via interviews, focus groups, surveys, and other channels. A recent survey conducted by EV Hybrid Noire in partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) revealed people’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about e-mobility and clean transportation in communities of color here in North Carolina. The key takeaways discovered in this focus group were:

  • Current mobility options need to be more inclusive of residents in RTP;
  • Charging infrastructure needs to be present in low-to-moderate income communities;
  • Knowledge of savings and tax incentives would encourage more EV adoption; and
  • Having more African Americans reflected in advertising would bring more awareness.

The intimate connections fostered from these focus groups are key to understanding what diverse communities need when it comes to EV adoption. “When talking about equitable transportation, it’s important to get in the community and truly understand some of the barriers that they have or are going through,” says Johnson. “People don’t want you to talk at them, they want to be able to talk to you. . .they want a listening ear.”

The tool most impactful within communities of color it seems is having trusted messengers—as in, communities of color are more inclined to listen to trusted community leaders or agents before making any decisions about getting their own electric vehicle. Johnson confirms, “People want to hear personal experiences from people who look like them.” In addition, there is a prevalent lack of trust among government resources (which is both cultural and historical, especially in the United States) in general that skews perspectives on both state and federal vehicle policies. To combat this, EV Hybrid Noire works closely with legislators and policymakers, sharing insights that may help them create more equitable transportation policies for everyone.

While the affordability element is challenging to get around in general, not just within BIPOC communities, EV Hybrid Noire shares the benefits of EV adoption by educating people on incentives and rebates based on where they are demographically, amplifying the ease of low-to-no vehicle maintenance, bringing awareness to the option of preowned vehicles, and more importantly, exposure to EV variations—for those who desire Teslas and others Nissan Leafs.

As a strong voice in e-mobility and equitable transportation, EV Hybrid Noire brings in those who are frequently left out. Surely there is more work to be done, but the progress made thus far is meritorious.

Now that Phase 1 of their multiyear project with SACE is complete, the organization is excited to roll out Phase 2. The recruitment stage for North Carolina residents is currently open, and BIPOC EV enthusiasts or any person of color seeking to learn more about electric vehicles are encouraged to sign up and/or join their member network. Information on how to participate and join are below:

For additional information on EV Hybrid Noire's recent study, please contact Corshonda Johnson at corshonda@evhybridnoire.com.

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