Story at a glance

  • Cities such as Chicago are investing in infrastructure for electric vehicles to address environmental concerns.
  • But a new initiative to install public charging stations isn’t serving lower-income Black and brown neighborhoods.
  • Community advocates are pushing the city to help make electric vehicles more accessible.

There’s a long-standing "chicken and egg" conundrum in public transportation that has kept poor, Black neighborhoods on the sidelines of development in major cities, from bike lanes to electric vehicles.  

In Chicago, Energy News reported that 70 percent of all public charging stations for electric vehicles were located in just three community areas as of 2018, while 47 of Chicago’s 77 community areas had no public charging stations at all. These areas were largely on the city’s South Side and West Side, according to Jitney EV, which is advocating for more equitable distribution of charging stations. 


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"Our mission is to grow the presence of EV Transportation and EV Charging infrastructure in communities most impacted by environmental pollution," reads the company's website. "Electrification of transportation is the shortest path to a clean air, clean energy future. It is key to the sustainability and resiliency of our community and helps transition our workforce from blue collar to green collar jobs."

In Chicago, these communities are primarily Black and Latinx and have historically suffered due to redlining policies that lowered property and housing values and limited economic mobility. And cost is still a barrier to owning electric vehicles, especially newer models.


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“There is still a cost differential [between] electric vehicles and gas vehicles. And unfortunately, the market presumption is to mostly go to wealthier majority-white neighborhoods and communities. We need to address both the charging and the vehicles in terms of more equity,” Susan Mudd, a senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, told Energy News. 

But electric vehicles can also save you money on gas and other costs in the long run while also generating jobs. Advocates for the Clean Energy Jobs Act are asking the city to invest in low-income electric car-sharing programs and provide other incentives to encourage the switch in Black, brown and underserved communities. In this case, that’s putting the “egg” — or clean energy infrastructure — first.


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Published on Dec 15, 2020