Professor Amr M. Baz





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For lower-income communities, the growing popularity of EVs is a mixed blessing. These communities tend to bear the brunt of air pollution and congestion, which EVs help mitigate. But the high price tags on these vehicles keep them out of reach of many, and they also siphon away gas tax revenues that have historically been used to fund road repair and maintenance.

To date, little EV-related research has focused on disadvantaged minorities, so policymakers seeking to redress these inequities lack needed data. A new study by Nneoma Ugwu, a 2024 University of Maryland (UMD) doctoral graduate, could help fill the research gap.

Ugwu, whose advisor was Clark Distinguished Chair Deb Niemeier, sent surveys to more than 2,000 residents of Maryland neighborhoods with predominantly Black or other minority populations, asking respondents about 12 variables—including price, convenience, and the availability of charging stations—that may influence the likelihood of their buying an EV. In addition to mailing the survey, she and a team of undergraduates fanned out to locations across the state to put up flyers with a link to the survey, and she also collaborated with organizations that work with minority and low-income communities to distribute the survey. Her outreach efforts ultimately yielded over 500524 eligible responses.

The results confirmed that price is an issue for many. One of the biggestThe most important deterrentsdeterrent to EV purchase, however, was the lack of charging stations in the areas where respondents live.

Not only are EVsS most often bought by wealthier drivers, but these drivers tend to live in single-family homes and often charge up the vehicles in their garages. By contrast, lower-income drivers are more likely to rent an apartment, and few apartment complexes come with charging stations.

And that fact isn’t surprising, given the cost of purchasing and installing a charging station. The fastest-charging ones can cost as much as $50,000, and even Level 2 equipment, which takes hours longer to charge up a vehicle, costs an average of $2,000 per unit.

Based on her survey findings, Ugwu believes the state should consider targeted subsidies designed to supply charging stations to neighborhoods that otherwise can’t afford them. In other work, Ugwu has examined the feasibility of implementing a road usage tax in place of declining gas taxes, thus ensuring future funding for road infrastructure while keeping things equitable.

When it comes to EVs, Ugwu said, “we need to make sure that policies are we’re helping the people who need the help most “and not just giving breaks to those who already enjoy a high level of affluence.” 

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June 5, 2024

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