Cleveland takes first step towards EV equity
The city of Cleveland is working to improve electric vehicle access and use in marginalized communities with the installation of charging stations, free for resident use.
The first in the series, unveiled Wednesday, is located in the Lee-Miles neighborhood at the Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Center. The goal, Mayor Justin Bibb said, is to ensure Clevelanders feel supported when investing in climate-friendly, green vehicles.
“We're seeing the largest federal investment in advancing climate justice and making the purchase of electric vehicles more easier for everyday working class Americans,” Bibb said. “As those tax credits become available for folks to buy electric vehicles, we want to make sure that if you are a resident in the Harvard or Mount Pleasant, New Miles, and you want to buy a Tesla or a Prius, you can charge your car right in your neighborhood.”
Hybrid and electric vehicles limit the amount of gas a car uses and the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide expelled into the atmosphere. With green vehicles becoming more affordable in recent years, Cleveland's Director of Sustainability and Climate Justice Sarah O’Keeffe said it’s time to expand access in the city.
“There's this misperception that in order to access electric vehicles, you have to have lots of money, and I think that that has been true in the past, but that's changed over the past year with the increased adoption of electric vehicles,” she said. “We need to make sure that the infrastructure is available for everyone, not just a certain socioeconomic class.”
The city hopes that by supporting green technology, like EV charging stations, in underserved communities, it will inspire residents to purchase their own hybrid or electric vehicles, said Elizabeth Lehman, sustainability manager for the built environment with the Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability.
“If folks in those areas don't see that there's infrastructure available, then there will be less likely to be adoption of electric vehicles,” Lehman said. “You can't kind of wait for the adoption to happen because there needs to be that security, that there is charging stations available, and so hopefully this kind of opens up and says the city is committed to ensuring that there's infrastructure there when you're ready to buy your EV.”
An increase of green vehicle use in underserved communities can greatly impact the health of residents, O’Keeffe said.
“It's also important to note that, especially in underserved neighborhoods, there is a more higher preponderance of asthma and air pollution,” she said. “And it's especially important to have access to clean technology for air pollution and decreasing carbon emissions that cause global warming, climate change, all the health impacts that are related to that.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invested $15,000 to fund the charging station, which can be used by residents free of charge.
At the press conference, the mayor and Ward 1 Councilman Joseph Jones test-drove one of the city’s new electric vehicles. The city intends to eventually have a car fleet made entirely of electric vehicles, Lehman said, but is currently undergoing a fleet analysis to determine charging station location and vehicle roll out.
“We don't want to buy vehicles that we don't need to buy, so [we’re] making sure that the new EVs are replacing vehicles that would need to be replaced anyways,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a complex project and kind of have has to be considered from a lot of different angles.”
The charging station, Bibb said, is an extension of the city’s other investments in green infrastructure.
“[It] signals to the entire region that Cleveland is going to be a leader in climate justice” he said, “and really advancing the benefits of the green economy.”