The transportation sector is the second largest CO2 producer in Canada, just behind the oil and gas industry. In a move to lower the country’s current emission rates, the Government of Canada has taken immediate actions to reduce CO2 emissions to net-zero by 2050 through a sector-by-sector plan. The transportation industry are the second-highest emitters as of 2023, providing 25% total nation-wide greenhouse gas emissions, with a majority coming from light-duty vehicles, including passenger cars, SUVs and minivans.

The importance of accelerating adoption of electric vehicles for achieving national and state decarbonization goals is clear. However, increasing equitable access to EV technology poses challenges. Upfront vehicle purchase costs, for example, can be a significant barrier to EV ownership in lower income households, but there are many other avenues for advancing equity and helping disadvantaged communities to realize environmental and other benefits afforded by EVs.

Federal, provincial, and municipal programs have been established to help provide funding for EV charging stations, including installation in on-street locations, public spaces, municipal properties, and for municipal fleet vehicles. For those who can afford to purchase an electric vehicle, many energy utilities offer special EV time-of-use rates and provide rebates and incentives for EV purchases and installation of Level-2 chargers. However, fewer than half of EV owners were aware of them, according to HomeServe’s research. Of those who were aware, better than 80 percent took advantage of these programs – a great opportunity for increased customer engagement those in need.

Public Transportation

In nearly every American city and county, buses are the most-used form of public transit. The vast majority still run on diesel fuel, releasing carbon emissions and particulate pollution that contributes to poor health outcomes, particularly for people of colour who, studies show, contend with high levels of air pollution.

The advantages of municipal and school bus electrification are becoming increasingly recognized by cities throughout Canada, with the federal government investing $14.9 billion in fast, reliable, clean, and affordable public transit over the next eight years. Electric bus companies Nova, Proterra and BYD have forged strong partnerships with municipalities and energy utilities to advance adoption of electric buses. Electrification of school buses is an equally important initiative for disadvantaged communities, with organizations like the Canadian Electric School Bus Alliance working towards the total electrification of the 51,000 buses that service our schools. Electric school buses also have the ability to be leveraged for vehicle-to-grid initiatives, enabling districts to earn income from buses predominantly parked during summer months while helping to relieve strain on the energy grid.

Aside from the environmental benefits, electric buses can provide significant economic benefits because of reduced maintenance and fuel costs, especially in high-mileage use cases. Federal and provincial funding is available to offset procurement costs, such as the Incentives for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (iMHZEV) Program for Canadian businesses and organizations and the Light-Duty Zero Emission Vehicles (iZEV) Program for residents and Canadian businesses. 

Ride Sharing Programs

Electric vehicle ride-sharing programs are increasing throughout the country, as municipalities see them as a way to increase EV access in communities that shoulder the heaviest pollution burdens, and whose residents are least able to afford an EV purchase. For example, the ten Quebec municipalities recently launched SAUVéR, an electric vehicle car-share program that will allow community residents to use an electric vehicle in the venings and on weekends when the vehicle is not in use by municipal staff. Charging stations will also be installed as part of the program. 

Public Charging

A public charging network is essential for widespread equitable access to ownership of electric vehicles, by making it possible for people who rent or live in multi-family housing to charge an electric vehicle. However, as private charging companies tend to build infrastructure where EVs are the most prevalent, disadvantaged communities are underserved. This was illustrated by the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Assessment conducted by the California Energy Commission (CEC) in December 2020. The study found the fewest total chargers per capita in low-income areas and the most in high-income communities. New York City’s borough of The Bronx, which has a population of 1.4 million with a median household income of just $40,000, is another “charger desert,” with only 17 EV charging stations.

To address these imbalances, legislation has been introduced this year to further EV equity. The Electric Vehicles for Underserved Communities Act directs the Department of Energy to expand access to electric vehicle charging in underserved communities by establishing an Electric Vehicle Charging Equity Program to create 200,000 charging stations nationwide in underserved communities by 2030, and undertaking a number of actions to assess the challenges, pinpoint areas of greatest need and incentivize and increase EV charging infrastructure deployment in underserved and disadvantaged communities.

Energy Equity Solutions

Funding for charger installations for electric vehicles in areas of need is also on the rise. For example, the federal government is offering generous tax breaks to those who purchase an EV. There are also several mid-priced models on the way for those who can’t afford the luxury versions.

HomeServe, a leading provider of solutions to enhance efficiency and safety for utility customers, is partnering with utilities and municipaliteis to install public level-2 chargers in lower-income communities and to provide turnkey installations of electric vehicle chargers for homeowners. Plus, we are among the first in the industry to offer a turnkey Level 2 EV charger installation and repair plan that not only provides a pre-vetted, nationwide network of licensed and insured electricians, but fills gaps in manufacturer’s warranties, covering normal wear and tear and offering protection for out-of-warranty devices. And, in fact, AEP’s Indiana-Michigan Power subsidiary is the first HomeServe partner to launch the EV Charger package as part of its new IM Plugged program for its customers in Indiana.

To learn more about HomeServe’s programs for EV energy equity, contact us.