Equity Considerations in Planning
An equitable planning process helps ensure that a project’s benefits and costs are fairly distributed throughout the community, including to low-income communities, communities of color, and the disability community.
Equity concerns that might arise with electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) include a project’s affordability, accessibility, reliability, location, safety, and related employment and economic opportunities. Specific issues could include the following:
- Financial accessibility of EV ownership and thus access to the benefits of EV charging infrastructure;
- Geographic coverage of EV charging infrastructure, e.g., EV “charging deserts” with gaps in coverage1;
- Variations in at-home charging capabilities, e.g., for renters, residents in multi-unit dwellings, or residents without dedicated parking;
- Variations in transportation conditions and balancing local and regional needs; e.g., managing traffic congestion, parking, and access to services in towns with high levels of tourism;
- Resilience to fluctuations in energy prices or disruptions in fuel supply;
- Accessibility of EV charging equipment for those with disabilities, and the reliability and coverage of transportation services for people with limited mobility;
- The emergence of State and utility commission-level requirements that utilities plan EV infrastructure in underserved areas, low-income neighborhoods, and communities of color.2
- Eligibility for and access to investment opportunities for EV infrastructure; and
- Access to EV-related training and employment opportunities through EVSE installation and maintenance.
During project planning, consider how benefits and burdens vary for and are distributed across specific populations, including users of differing race and ethnicity, gender, physical and cognitive ability, age, education, income level, and language proficiency.3
Key recommendations from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) on siting for equity include supporting meaningful community engagement, conducting an outcomes-focused community needs assessment, investing in transit and affordable mobility services, and dedicating funding specifically to address the needs of traditionally underserved populations.
Electric mobility advocacy organizations could also serve as important partners and resources. For example, the national organization EVHybridNoire launched a certificate and professional development program for students at Historically Black College and University institutions expanding access to careers in the e-mobility industry.
The sections below elaborate on the importance of community engagement and the value of equity data in infrastructure development. See also Resources for EV Infrastructure Planning for a more complete compilation of tools and resources to help guide and inform the planning process.
Engagement and Outreach Methods
Community engagement helps ensure that a project meets diverse community needs, that community members can influence the direction of their community’s development, and that access to EV charging infrastructure and associated benefits is fairly distributed.
Stakeholder outreach as a continual process in transportation decision-making is an important method of engagement that invites the input of individuals and groups impacted by a proposed project. This outreach should be focused and meaningful, based on the needs, culture, and characteristics of the relevant neighborhood or community.
It is important to identify and leverage the best opportunities to reach a particular community so that all community members’ feedback can be collected.
Accessing and incorporating stakeholder feedback in project planning and implementation helps ensure a project meets impacted individuals’ needs and addresses their concerns.4
Planners can also collaborate and coordinate with local organizations that represent impacted or traditionally underserved populations. Resources like the University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box and FHWA’s 2015 report on public involvement in transportation decision-making include guidance and techniques for engagement. Possible strategies include conducting stakeholder interviews, deploying needs assessment surveys, and organizing public comment sessions.
For virtual engagement, FHWA’s Virtual Public Involvement website includes video case studies, fact sheets, and tips for success in using digital technology to involve the public in project planning.
Regardless of outreach method, following up with participants afterwards is also important for demonstrating that the project team is actively considering and incorporating the community’s input.
Using Equity Data
Analysis of socioeconomic data and equity-related metrics—such as measures of income distribution and social vulnerability, number of renters, rates of vehicle ownership, different modes of commute, and measures of transportation energy affordability—can help rural entities understand how resources are currently distributed in their communities, as well as where new EV infrastructure may be most beneficial. Entities can also monitor equity outcomes to evaluate the impact of projects over time.
Datasets and interactive maps such as the White House Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, FHWA’s HEPGIS, EPA’s EJScreen, DOE’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool, DOE’s Energy Zones Mapping Tool, and Argonne National Laboratory’s EV Charging Justice40 Map Tool are several resources available to help rural entities understand and visualize different population characteristics in their communities.
1See, for example, maps by the Bureau of Indian Affairs illustrating EV charging deserts for Tribes, particularly locations that provide essential health and education services but lack access via EV charging corridors as of early 2022.
2For examples, see Table 2 in the ACEEE’s white paper on siting for equity.
3Note that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance.
4Public involvement is also a critical component of the Federal environmental review process. See USDOT FHWA’s Public Involvement/Public Participation website for more information.