As Lyft commits to reaching 100 percent electric vehicles (EV) by the end of 2030, we also recognize the opportunities the emerging EV revolution presents for centering racial, economic, and environmental justice. Challenges remain, but at Lyft, we believe the emerging EV market can benefit and strengthen Black and Hispanic communities across America–leading to healthier neighborhoods, cleaner roads, and environmental justice.
We’re at the dawn of a new and exciting technological revolution, giving the country a real opportunity to address the climate crisis and advance racial equity. But we have a long way to go. Decades of institutional racism and damaging public policy have left Black and Hispanic communities particularly vulnerable to the worsening climate crisis, created deep and persistent racial inequities in income, exacerbated the racial wealth gap, created racially concentrated areas of poverty, and devastated infrastructure across communities of color. These racial inequities and systemic problems reinforce barriers to entry and make it harder for communities of color to participate in the EV revolution.
Recent studies suggest that high income, highly educated, home owning white households with more than one vehicle disproportionately represent the EV market. Despite racial inequities in EV ownership, research shows that Black and Hispanic communities are not only just as interested in EVs as white consumers but that these same communities (Black and Hispanic) are also more likely to be concerned about climate change and less likely to engage in climate denialism – refusing to accept or downplaying the scientific evidence about global warming, its causes, and the harm it causes our planet and people.
We’ve seen the impact of structural and institutional racial inequities in other ways as well: not just in who purchases or leases an EV, but who has convenient access to charging, who received marketing and news about incentives, who can access and utilize those incentives, who gets approved for loans to purchase – the list goes on and on. And in a country where the public and private sectors continue to underinvest and disinvest in Black and brown communities, racial equity and environmental justice must be at the center of any EV adoption
The EV revolution has the potential to offer real opportunities to Black and Hispanic Americans in policy innovation, small business opportunities, job creation, and education. By centering the needs of communities of color, decision-makers can ensure that the benefits of the EV transition are racially equitable across communities.
- Policy Innovation: The public sector has a significant role in promoting EV adoption, and policymakers must center racial equity in developing EV policies. Addressing the systemic barriers Black and Hispanic communities face, such as inadequate charging infrastructure, loan denials, and affordability, can help ensure a racially equitable transition to America’s clean energy future. Through various incentive programs such as tax credits, point-of-sale subsidies, and prioritizing contracting, procurement, and grant opportunities for businesses owned by Black and Hispanic communities, federal, state, and local government entities can help unlock the full potential of the EV market for all communities.
- For example, the Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022 included nearly $400 billion in federal funding for clean energy, making historic investments in efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Through the Department of Transportation, $700 million has been made available for the equitable deployment and expansion of EV charging infrastructure, focusing on “historically underserved communities.” More programs like this are critical to the success of universal adoption.
- Jobs: The shift to EVs presents a significant opportunity for Black and Hispanic workers. A report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that Black workers and, more specifically, Black workers without a four year college degree are more likely to work in auto parts and vehicle assembly jobs. As the EV industry grows, companies must prioritize making job opportunities accessible and high quality, especially for Black, Hispanic, and other workers of color. Ensuring that Black and Hispanic communities are prepared for and have access to these opportunities through targeted training, education, and workforce development programs is essential for inclusive growth.
- Future of Work + Education: As the EV industry grows, companies and policymakers must ensure that jobs created across each sector offer access to high quality jobs. Decision makers can take steps towards accomplishing this by investing in education and workforce development, particularly to meet the needs of Black and Hispanic Americans.
Like technological advancements of the past, there is a real opportunity here to unlock economic growth, jobs, and community investment in communities of color across the country. Black and Hispanic communities didn’t reap those benefits in the past. Still, by centering racial equity in the transition to EVs early on, we can ensure communities of color enjoy the same opportunities and thrive and participate in this new economy
The Lyft approach centers on uplifting and amplifying opportunities for Black and Hispanic drivers, riders, employees, and community members. Last year, Lyft introduced a suite of offerings to push for a more accessible, cost-effective, and rewarding transition to EVs for drivers. We are proud that 56 percent of our drivers are Black or Hispanic. We designed targeted initiatives to help meet their needs, including earning incentives, access to affordable charging options, increased access to EVs through Express Drive (Lyft’s vehicle rental partner program), and an educational website. These measures aim to ensure that communities of color enjoy the same opportunities and thrive as participants in the new EV economy.
The EV revolution presents a key moment to advance racial equity and environmental justice for Black and Hispanic communities through policy innovation, small business growth, job creation, and education. Leaders across sectors must act urgently to center the needs of communities of color to ensure a racially equitable transition that allows each community to reap the benefits.