Feb 13, 2023 - News

Detroit's EV revolution hinges on equitable, affordable charging

Illustration of a EV charger in a car

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The electric vehicle movement is growing nationwide, but people who live in apartments, low-income neighborhoods and rural areas without easy charging access could get left behind, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Why it matters: Despite trying to position itself as a mobility pioneer with projects at the Michigan Central train depot and the Joe Louis Greenway, Detroit's lack of widespread access to EV chargers remains a work in progress.

  • If the benefits of cleaner transportation — better air quality, less noise, lower energy costs — don't flow equitably to all Americans, EV adoption is likely to stall, limiting the country's ability to achieve its climate goals.
  • In a first of its kind study, U of M researchers found that even if all gas-powered cars were replaced with EVs, the lowest-income U.S. households would keep experiencing the highest transportation energy burdens.

Zoom in: Many of Detroit's public charging stations are downtown and along the Woodward corridor, with gaps in surrounding neighborhoods.

  • A recent Axios analysis found that public chargers are easier to find in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods.

Driving the news: Michigan and the federal government are trying to spur more investment in public charging.

  • The 2021 federal infrastructure law includes $5 billion for highway chargers and $2.5 billion for other community charging sites.
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new state budget proposal includes $65 million to expand EV charging infrastructure and access, although it's unclear how that will roll out in Detroit.

What they're saying: For lower-income communities to enjoy lower fuel costs and environmental benefits of EVs, more wealthy households must embrace the transition.

  • Purchases of new EVs will increase the availability of used models, making them more affordable, Gregory Keoleian, a co-author of the U of M study, tells Axios.
  • "Low-income communities need to participate, but it has to be affordable," Keoleian says.

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