A growing number of states and municipalities across the United States are setting ambitious climate and energy goals that call for large-scale decarbonization across economic sectors. In order to achieve their targets, states will need to aggressively deploy a range of tools, including distributed and large-scale renewables, energy storage, energy efficiency, and building and transportation electrification.

Vehicle electrification presents a unique challenge in that it requires not only greater availability of electric vehicles (EVs) at affordable rates for consumers, but also the public and private charging infrastructure to support EV drivers, which will have to grow exponentially to meet expected demand.

EV policy thus far has focused primarily on encouraging individual EV ownership, which is not an option for all consumers. While the number of federal and state incentives to encourage EV ownership and the market for used EVs is growing, low- and moderate-income communities, as well as individuals who don’t have access to home or workplace charging, may face financial or technical barriers to purchasing EVs.

State legislatures and public utility commissions (PUCs) increasingly recognize this barrier to electrified transportation and are developing programs to expand access to EVs beyond ownership, with a particular focus on transportation equity and shared mobility programs. Such programs can both serve as transportation resources and enable low-and moderate-income (LMI) and underserved communities to access and benefit from electrified transportation.

Despite the progress, most of the investments are concentrated in a fairly limited number of jurisdictions. A great deal of opportunity and need remains to expand the reach of EV shared mobility programs that serve LMI and underserved communities across the country.

IREC’s new paper, Paving the Way: Enabling Equitable Electric Vehicle Shared Mobility Programs, builds on existing research centered on EV charging infrastructure and shared mobility to develop a set of recommendations on how to incorporate transportation equity into utility regulation and make the case for supporting equitable transportation programs before PUCs. The focus of this paper is on investor-owned utility (IOU) programs. The paper does not address the question of whether utilities should own charging infrastructure, but generally recommends that regulators encourage the growth of the EV charging infrastructure market rather than turning to utility ownership as the starting point.