Rapid EV adoption by low-income drivers needed to curb climate change: report

Getting low-income drivers behind the wheel of electric vehicles is necessary to reduce greenhouse gases in the coming years, according to a report released Monday Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a science and technology think tank in Washington, DC

The need for EVs to become a market success is enormous given the lack of low-carbon alternatives to the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the urgency of emissions reduction requirements, noted report authors Madeline Yozwiak, Sanya Carley and David M. Konisky.

Because of the stakes, they continued, the technology maturity trajectory for EVs should move faster than is typical for an emerging technology.

This fledgling technology must soon be almost fully adopted to meet local and global policy goals, she added. This means that a wider range of consumers should buy EVs earlier in the adoption process than with comparable technologies

Since conventional approaches to encourage EV purchase may fail to reach low-income and underserved communities, the authors argue that innovation will be an important strategy to address both inequalities in EV adoption and the broader goal of mass adoption.

They claim that by intentionally involving a wide range of users early in the adoption process, technology providers can identify issues more effectively and adapt the technology to successfully address a mass market.

Barriers to Adoption

Rob Enderle, president and chief analyst at the Enderle Group, a consultancy in Bend, Oregon, agreed that low-income people and underprivileged cars are important for decarbonizing the atmosphere. “That’s where most of the non-compliant gas cars are probably located, making it a critical milestone in reducing pollutants in cars,” he told TechNews All.

“But keep in mind,” he warned, “most regions still don’t have enough electrical generation and distribution capacity for these large-scale groups.”

The ITIF report noted that the three main barriers to electric vehicle use — range, price and charging time — affect low-income and disadvantaged drivers more than others.

“Standard barriers can be experienced more intensely for low-income people than for middle-income people,” Yozwiak noted.

For example, incentives intended to encourage the purchase of EVs may miss the mark when it comes to low-income drivers.

“The initial cost is higher than for combustion engine vehicles, but the main form of incentive created by the government is a $7,500 tax credit,” Yozwiak told TechNews All. “But to take advantage of that policy, you must have a minimum of $7,500 in tax liability.”

“If you make $30,000 a year, you don’t have as much tax liability, so you won’t receive the full benefit of that credit to lower the cost of a vehicle, compared to higher-income buyers,” she explained.

Rich men with garages

Charging an EV can also be more challenging for low-income drivers and disadvantaged drivers. “Low-income people are more likely to live in multi-family housing and are less likely to charge a car directly,” David M. Hart, director of ITIF’s Center for Clean Energy Innovation, told TechNews All.

Enderle added that EVs are often the second car in a family because of barriers such as price, range and charging time. “Low income groups probably only have one car that they predominantly use, and that’s the car that needs to be replaced,” he said.

The report also claimed that strategies for accelerating EV adoption among the low-income and underprivileged that combine innovation and equity should prioritize communications and marketing, review assumptions and biases about early adopters, and design government programs to increase demand and maximize universal benefits.

“The assumptions about who is using this technology are the basis for a wide variety of decisions,” Yozwiak said. “Those decisions affect how the technology is defined to the types of incentives and policies created to encourage its adoption.”

“If those decisions are based on inaccurate assumptions about who is buying or might be buying the technology,” she continued, “you end up perpetuating a bias that could affect access in the future.”

“When people who sell cars think of early adopters, they think of rich men with garages,” Hart added. “If they focus entirely on that group, they will slow the adoption of these vehicles because they will be seen as the province of rich people. We need these vehicles to perform the mobility functions that all people need.”

Enderle noted that EVs were initially introduced at the premium end of the market and that public chargers are there to serve that class of buyers. “Low-income households may not have the power capacity for a level 2 charger or a place to put one,” he said.

“Public charging will need to be installed that is more convenient for those populations,” he continued, “such as street inductive charging — which requires less maintenance and is less likely to be vandalized — gaining ground from companies like WiTricity.”

Tesla with WiTricity wireless charger

WiTricity Halo wireless charging for EVs was announced in February.


Incentives work

Another conclusion of the report was that the federal government can help expand benefits for the low-income and underprivileged by revising the federal tax credit for EV purchases to make it refundable or eligible for transfer, access to charging infrastructure. expand and assist with upgrades in older homes.

If the tax credit were refundable, for example, a person who pays only $3,000 in taxes would get a $3,000 tax credit and a $4,500 refund check from Uncle Sam, or with wire transfer he would get a $3,000 credit and be able to to carry over the remainder of the credit to subsequent tax years.

Incentives, such as tax credits, can boost sales, noted Edward Sanchez, a senior analyst at Strategy analysis, a global research, advisory and analytics company. “Norway recently removed some incentives because they crossed the 50% threshold of EVs as new car sales and immediately after removing that credit, they saw EV sales drop,” he told TechNews All.

“The long-term goal is for manufacturers to get the price down to the point where subsidies and credits are no longer needed, but we’re not quite there yet,” he added.

Move to public transport

Since most Americans buy used cars, the best thing they can do to speed up the purchase of EVs by low-income and underserved motorists is to accelerate the sale of new vehicles, claimed Sam Abuelsamid, a chief analyst for E- Mobility at Guidehouse Insights in Detroit. “If those trickle down to the used vehicle fleet, they could be more affordable,” he told TechNews All.

“The only other thing we can do is encourage people to get out of older vehicles and use public transport,” he said.

“As long as Americans want to keep driving their own vehicles,” he added, “it will be at least 2040 before you decarbonise the existing fleet significantly.”

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