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Los Angeles Spreads the EV Wealth Around

Officials announce higher rebates and new fast chargers in underserved areas of the city.

Los Angeles.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Los Angeles officials on Thursday announced a plan to make the clean energy transition cheaper for low-income residents, The New York Timesreports. “Working families in our city need to be assured that our city’s clean energy future won’t leave them trapped in the past,” Mayor Karen Bass said. “Many working families — some working two to three jobs to make ends meet — won’t buy or lease EVs if they don’t have access to convenient, timesaving, cost-saving places to charge them.”

The move comes in response to a study, also released Thursday by a coalition of city, state, and national groups, showing that most of the money for Los Angeles’ green incentives has so far flowed to its wealthier residents. From 1999 to 2022, for instance, just 38% of the $340 million invested in residential solar panels went to disadvantaged communities. And of the $5 million in electric vehicle rebates given from 2013 to 2021, just 23% went to underserved communities. The new plan will offer qualified buyers $4,000 toward the purchase of used EVs, up from $2,500, and install fast chargers in areas that have so far received little attention from private industry. The arrival of cheaper EVs next year should also help.

Los Angeles isn’t alone in tackling the issue of an equitable energy transition. Michigan recently proposed a suite of ambitious climate laws, one of which would establish a Just Transition Office to help workers hurt by decarbonization. New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed in 2019, requires that 35% to 40% of “benefits from investments in clean energy and energy efficiency programs” go to disadvantaged communities. Even earlier, Minneapolis designated an area in its economically troubled north as The Northside Green Zone, which involves “a plan of action to improve environmental and population health, and social, economic and environmental justice.”

Such efforts will be crucial in the coming years, as financially strapped homeowners grapple with the high up-front costs of the clean-energy conversion, experts told the Times. “In order to reach a 100% clean energy transition you really need to bring everyone along,” said Kate Anderson, of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one of the authors of the study. “It’s going to depend on everyone making changes in their households. The affordability piece is a huge challenge.”

Jacob Lambert profile image

Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine.


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