California has a $20M program for getting EVs to the underserved

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California has begun dispersing $20 million in funding to help get more electric cars into underserved communities.

The state\’s Clean Mobility Operations Voucher Pilot Program (CMO) has awarded voucher of up to $50,000 each to 24 nonprofits, local governments, transit agencies, and Native American tribes to conduct \”Community Transportation Needs Assessments.\”

Out of $20 million available for 2020, the CMO program has awarded $1.15 million for these assessments. Of that allotment, $1 million was awarded to eligible disadvantaged communities, and $150,000 was awarded to Native American tribes, a program press release said.

Awardees submitted applications for projects to \”help them identify and understand the unmet mobility needs of their communities and develop solutions in collaboration with residents.\”

The program\’s website said it \”provides voucher-based funding for zero-emission car-sharing, carpooling/vanpooling, bike-sharing/scooter-sharing, innovative transit services, and ride-on-demand services in California’s historically underserved communities.\”

Proterra Catalyst electric bus

This isn\’t the first effort to address inequalities in access to zero-emission transportation.

California and other states have moved to tie their electric-car purchase incentives to income, ensuring low-income car buyers get the maximum benefit.

The Golden State\’s Plus-Up scrappage program was more favorable to low-income buyers as well, while AAA and Electrify America recently launched an electric-car subscription venture aimed at disadvantaged communities in the state capital of Sacramento.

But a big barrier is the lack of charging infrastructure in underserved areas, and the lack of options for car-sharing and ride-hailing in the communities the CMO program aims to serve.

For instance, Car2Go faced criticism in 2015 when it reduced its coverage area in Portland, neatly cutting out some of the most diverse (and generally lower-income) areas of the city.

These barriers and others have led us in the past to wonder if EVs are viable mostly in the suburbs, rather than urban areas. But programs like this one in California could help Americans break free of those barriers.

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