OPINION: Making sustainable transportation more accessible for all

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When some people think of electric vehicles, the first thing that comes to mind is high-end luxury vehicles seemingly available only to the wealthy in urban or suburban settings.

With increased federal funding to the states for electric vehicle charging through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and more and more automakers pledging to make all of their models electric in the near future, many are wondering how an electric vehicle will meet their financial and transportation needs.

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The reality is electric and alternative fuel vehicles come in a variety of price ranges and save private and fleet owners money over the life of the vehicle over traditional gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles. Grant programs at the state and federal levels have also helped add more sustainable transportation options to public and private fleets for decades, offsetting the initial purchase costs.

Still, rural and low-income communities have less access than their urban and suburban counterparts. The Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative aims to help by directing 40 percent of climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit and other funding initiatives to disadvantaged communities.

As work continues on the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative, many programs are already in place working to bridge the sustainable transportation equity gap.

Wisconsin Clean Cities is proud to serve as a partner of Drive Clean Rural USA, an eight-state pilot project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The project provides participating county government and private sector fleets, hospitals, colleges, and other institutions with demonstration vehicles, education on funding opportunities, assistance in creating county-wide fuel transition plans and identifying job growth opportunities in the biofuels and renewable methane production sectors.

Ultimately, the partners will create a replication playbook with success stories and lessons learned aimed at serving as a guide for adoption and overcoming barriers for other states.

Just as rural communities need assistance with access to clean transportation options, so, too, do our neighbors in multi-unit dwellings like apartment and condominium buildings.

Most electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles overnight in their own garages. While the network of charging stations for those seeking access as they travel longer distances is increasing, those in multi-unit dwellings often don’t have the same type of access to home charging as those living in single-family housing.

Wisconsin Clean Cities is pleased to partner with The Center for Sustainable Energy, along with 12 other Clean Cities coalitions on the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Vehicle Charging Innovations for Multi-Unit Dwelling project.

The partners are working with stakeholders to document barriers to multi-unit dwelling and residential curbside charging stations, demonstrate innovative technologies that address barriers, compile project findings in an easy-to-use toolkit and disseminate the toolkit across national, regional, state and local channels.

Sustainable transportation needs to be accessible for all. Wisconsin Clean Cities is proud to be part of the solution and to help Wisconsin serve as a leader for the rest of the nation.

This column first ran in Lee Enterprises newspapers across Wisconsin, including Kenosha News. Lorrie Lisek is the Executive Director of Wisconsin Clean Cities and the president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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