Wait, so where will city dwellers charge their electric cars?

So you have nice house with a garage where you can charge your electric vehicle – you live in the future. You are too – sorry! – Far from the original: 90 percent of electric car owners in the United States have their own garages. But woe to the townspeople. The chargers built into the parking lots for apartments are few. And as if parking in the city is not a nightmare enough, competition for suitable street spaces leaves electric cars blocked by the electricity that gives them life. Could you break into the power lines above and plug a cable into your Tesla? Of course, if you prefer your biology to be extremely crunchy. But a better way is coming, because smart people are working to provide energy to thirsty city electric cars.

This is good news, because converting the vehicles of congested cities into electricity will be an important part of any plan to prevent further climate change. But convincing city dwellers to strive for EV is difficult. Even those who have overcome concerns about the range of the battery will find that there are not many places to charge. Someone will have to fix that, says Dave Mulney, who is studying electrification as head of the carbon-free mobility team at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research organization focused on sustainable development. “What is pretty clear right now is that electric vehicles are coming and they will quickly saturate the rich people’s market with garages,” he said. “They need to expand beyond that.”

So the goal is clear: Create more chargers. But in dense places the eternal question is where? And how do we ensure that they are not only affordable, but cheap enough for everyone to use?

“I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all strategy,” Polly Trottenberg, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, said in a media interview Thursday. She will know: until recently, Trottenberg was head of the transport department in New York, where he oversaw his fair share of EV charging experiments. At least the money is on the way to help cities understand it. The federal infrastructure bill contained $ 7.5 billion to maintain hundreds of thousands of other public charging stations. States, including California, which has pledged to stop selling new gas-powered cars by 2035, also have programs to build more chargers.

Whatever the strategy, however, tackling the problem is vital if cities and federal agencies want to pursue greater goals of improving justice, accessibility and racial justice, which many politicians have identified as priorities. After all, low-income people cannot switch from traditional cars to electric ones until they have ample access to affordable charging infrastructure. The capitalist temptation would be to let private companies fight to see who can put more chargers in more places. But it risks creating taxing deserts, the way the United States already has food deserts, slums where grocery chains don’t bother to set up shop. Public schools in the United States have a similar structural inequality: the higher the tax base, the better local education. And since the still nascent charging business is actually pretty bleak right now, the government will probably have to continue directing resources or subsidies to low-income communities to make sure they get involved once the electric car economy thrives.

Transforming taxpayer-funded charging, rather than other corporate money-grabbing, can help encourage the adoption of EVs in low-income urban neighborhoods – they can even be powered by community-owned solar grids. Withdrawing gas-powered cars from the road will improve local air quality, which is much worse for the poor and the colored. And installing chargers in low-resource communities will be especially important, as buyers in these areas may be more likely to own used electric cars with old batteries that do not get the optimal range, so they will need more consistent charging.

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But getting participation from residents of these places will be crucial, as color communities are accustomed to “neutral or benign neglect and sometimes even outright malignancy. [transportation] political decisions, ”said Andrea Marpilero-Colomina, a clean transport consultant at GreenLatinos, a non-profit organization. For communities unfamiliar with electric vehicles, which may depend on gas stations or conventional service stations, the sudden appearance of chargers may seem like a harbinger of gentrification, she said, a physical sign that they are being replaced.

Some urban areas are already experimenting with new charging strategies, each with its pros and cons. Big cities like Los Angeles and New York, and smaller ones like Charlotte, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon, have thrown out bright ideas from Europe and installed chargers next to street places, sometimes even street lamps. They are often cheaper to install because the space or pole is probably owned by a local company or city and the necessary wiring is already there. They can also be easier for drivers to access than even a gas station charger: Just park, turn on and leave.

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