Now that vehicle pollution is the worst driver of climate change, electric vehicles (EVs) can help Illinois deliver cleaner air, cheaper transportation and lower energy costs for all consumers. Many people equate EVs with expensive passenger vehicles like Teslas, but the commercial and public sectors can also electrify—such as buses, or delivery vehicles. In its 20-page guide, “EV for All: Electrifying Transportation in Low-Income Communities,” CUB argues that low-income communities can and should be placed at the center of EV policy.

Research has shown that under-resourced Chicago neighborhoods are disproportionately burdened by air pollution and punishing energy bills. Additionally, they’re often located near polluting transportation corridors but far from good transit options. 

But good EV policies offer key solutions. CUB’s research team found that programs encouraging EV owners and fleet managers to charge their vehicles when electricity costs are low (typically in the middle of the night) could help manage power grid costs and spark up to $2.6 billion in cumulative energy savings for all consumers—even those who don’t drive EVs—over the next decade. 

EV prices at this time may be too expensive for many families, but CUB proposes creative solutions to ensure that everyone can benefit from EVs, including low-income neighborhoods:

  • Income-based rebates for used EVs and home chargers.
  • Income-based swap programs to encourage trading-in polluting gasoline cars for EVs.
  • Geo-targeted public charge station development (with discounts for local residents).
  • Low-cost “last-mile” transportation options, such as car-sharing, e-scooters and e-bikes.
  • Electric buses that are targeted for communities in “transit deserts.” (In a test program, two e-buses saved the City of Chicago $54,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs.)
  • The electrification of municipal fleets (police cruisers, garbage trucks, snow plows). 
  • Electrification of commercial trucks.
  • Optimized charging to reduce costs for everyone.

Many of these ideas are included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which is currently before the Illinois General Assembly.

“Our message has always been that the right EV policy benefits everyone, even people who don’t drive electric vehicles,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “Up until now, the communities that could most benefit from EVs have too often been denied those benefits. But with creative solutions, Illinois policymakers can use vehicle electrification as a mechanism to reduce energy and transportation costs as well as pollution for low-income neighborhoods. We are advocating for strong clean energy policy—like the Clean Energy Jobs Act—that brings EV benefits to everyone in the state.”

Download our guide, “EV for All: Electrifying Transportation in Low-Income Communities,” here.

And please check out CUB’s other volumes in the ABCs of EVs series:

Click to view the infographic in full.