Putting low-income drivers behind the wheel of electric vehicles is necessary to reduce greenhouse gases in the coming years, according to a report published Monday by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a science and technology think tank in Washington, D.C.
The need for electric vehicles to be a market success is immense given the lack of low-carbon alternatives to the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the urgency of emissions reduction requirements, noted the report authors Madeline Yozwiak, Sanya Carley and David M. Koniski.
Because of the stakes involved, they continued, the path to technological maturity for electric vehicles must evolve faster than is typical for an emerging technology.
This young technology must quickly reach near-full adoption if local and global policy goals are to be achieved, they added. This implies that a wider range of consumers need to buy electric vehicles earlier in the adoption process than similar technologies
Since conventional approaches to encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles may not reach low-income and disadvantaged communities, the authors argue that innovation will be a key strategy to both address disparities in the adoption of electric vehicles and contribute to the broader goal of mass adoption.
They argue that by intentionally including a wide range of users early in the adoption process, technology vendors can more effectively identify problems and modify the technology to successfully appeal to a mass market.
Barriers to Adoption
Rob Enderle, President and Principal Analyst at Enderle Group, a consulting services company in Bend, Oregon, agreed that low-income and disadvantaged people who drive cars are important for decarbonizing the atmosphere. “This is where most non-compliant gas-powered cars likely reside, making it a critical step in reducing automotive-source pollutants,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Be aware, however,” he cautioned, “that most areas do not yet have enough power generation and distribution capacity for these large-scale groups.”
The ITIF report noted that the three main obstacles to the adoption of electric vehicles – range, price and charging time – affect low-income and disadvantaged drivers more than others.
“Standard barriers may be felt more intensely for low-income people than for those with moderate incomes,” Yozwiak observed.
For example, incentives designed to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles may miss the mark when it comes to low-income drivers.
“The initial costs are higher than for internal combustion vehicles, but the main form of incentive created by the government is a tax credit of $7,500,” Yozwiak told TechNewsWorld. “But to qualify for this policy, you must have at least $7,500 in tax payable.”
“If you make $30,000 a year, you won’t have to pay as much tax, so you won’t get the full benefit of this credit for lowering the cost of a vehicle, compared to buyers with higher incomes, ” she explained.
Rich men with garages
Charging an electric vehicle can also be more difficult for low-income and disadvantaged drivers. “Lower-income people are more likely to live in multi-family dwellings and less likely to have a place to directly charge a car,” the director of ITIF’s Center for Clean Energy Innovation told TechNewsWorld. , David M. Hart.
Enderle added that due to barriers such as price, range and charging time, electric vehicles are often a family’s second car. “Low-income groups probably only have one car that they mainly use, and that’s the car that needs to be replaced,” he said.
The report also argued that strategies to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles among low-income and disadvantaged people that combine innovation and equity should include prioritizing communication and marketing, revising assumptions and biases about the former users and the design of government programs to increase demand and maximize universal benefits.
“Assumptions about who uses this technology inform a wide range of decisions,” Yozwiak said. “These decisions have consequences for how the technology is defined and what kinds of incentives and policies are created to encourage its adoption.”
“If those decisions are based on inaccurate assumptions about who is buying the technology or who might buy it,” 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 this group, they will slow down the adoption of these vehicles because they will be perceived as the province of the rich. We need these vehicles to perform the mobility functions that everyone needs.
Enderle noted that electric vehicles were initially introduced in the premium segment of the market and that public chargers are positioned to serve this category of buyers. “Low-income households may not have the power capacity for a Level 2 charger or a place to install one,” he said.
“Public charging will need to be installed in a way that is more convenient for these populations,” he continued, “like street inductive charging – which requires less maintenance and has less risk of vandalism – which is gaining traction with companies like WiTricity”.
WiTricity Halo wireless charging for electric vehicles was announced in February.
Another takeaway from the report was that the federal government can help extend benefits to low-income and disadvantaged people by revising the federal tax credit for electric vehicle purchases to make it refundable or eligible for deferral, by expanding access to charging infrastructure and helping with renovations in older homes.
If the tax credit were refundable, someone who only pays $3,000 in taxes, for example, would get a $3,000 tax credit and a $4,500 refund check from Uncle Sam, or with a carryforward, she would get a credit of $3,000 and could carry forward the rest of the credit to subsequent tax years.
Incentives, like tax credits, can boost sales, noted Edward Sanchez, principal analyst at Strategic analysis, a global research, advisory and analytics company. “Norway recently removed some incentives because they exceeded the 50% threshold for new EV sales and immediately after removing that credit they saw EV sales drop,” he said. at TechNewsWorld.
“The long-term goal is for manufacturers to bring prices down to a point where subsidies and credits are no longer needed, but we’re not there yet,” he added.
Switch to public transport
Since most Americans buy used cars, the best thing to do to accelerate the purchase of electric vehicles by low-income and disadvantaged drivers is to accelerate sales of new vehicles, asserted Sam Abuelsamid, Senior Analyst for E-Mobility at Glimpses of the House of Guides in Detroit. “As these filter into the used vehicle fleet, they may be more affordable,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“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 continue to want to drive their own vehicles,” he added, “it will be at least 2040 before we significantly decarbonize the existing vehicle fleet.”