Each year, April 7 marks International World Health Day. This day dedicated to promoting health was created by the World Health Organization (WHO), and this year WHO has a specific message. Committed to "ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can realize the right to good health," WHO specifically addresses the COVID-19 pandemic explaining that it has highlighted, "some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age." (World Health Organization, 2021)
The organization finishes out its World Health Day 2021 campaign stating that widespread struggles include low income, poor housing conditions and education, scarce employment opportunities, food insecurity, lack of access to health services, and gender inequality. WHO also emphasizes that building an inclusive, healthier world must include ensuring that all groups have access to safe environments, clean water, and clean air. We could not agree more. (World Health Organization, 2021)
Even if you lack extensive knowledge on electric vehicles (EV), you probably at least know that they noticeably contribute to emissions reductions, are significantly better for the environment than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and save drivers substantial amounts of money each year. Aside from these three benefits, and among many others, EVs are also extremely beneficial to human health.
There are two main types of emissions from vehicles: direct and life cycle. The Department of Energy explains, "Direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process. Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide." Although plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) have both an electric motor and a gasoline engine and still produce tailpipe emissions, their efficiency compared to gas-powered vehicles results in a smaller amount of direct emissions production. All-electric vehicles pump out no direct emissions, notably improving air quality, especially in urban areas. (United States Department of Energy, 2021)
Life cycle emissions also include numerous damaging pollutants but, unlike direct emissions, are related to manufacturing, distribution, use, disposal, and recycling. While all transportation types produce life cycle emissions (varying depending on electricity mix and generation, and geographic location) EVs still come out on top. (United States Department of Energy, 2021)
So, we know that EVs, especially in urban areas, are better for public health. Now what? According to WHO's studies, 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, and outdoor air pollution resulted in an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 alone - nearly twice the number of global COVID-19 deaths thus far (World Health Organization, 2021). Further, "low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately harmed because of their proximity to multiple sources of pollution, including industrial facilities, bus depots, and truck corridors." (Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Illinois, 2020)
Although mass EV adoption is beneficial in countless ways, we would like to use World Health Day and WHO's specific 2021 focus on the human right to a healthy environment to discuss a very important topic. While it is exciting for our company to be a part of combatting the detrimental impacts of climate change, we also acknowledge the fact that environmental programs, legislation, and other initiatives have historically discriminated against disadvantaged communities, if not excluding their existence entirely.
As we enter what appears to be an era of aggressive climate action, it is imperative to include these communities every step of the way, ensure access to affordable clean energy, and address the past's inequities. New York State's Climate Leadership and Protection Act (CLCPA) directly addresses environmental injustices, deploying numerous avenues to manage them. As a New York State-based company, Livingston Energy Group actively continues to work closely with state agencies, utility companies providing energy to NYS residents, and the EV programs offered by each to ensure access to our charging stations is distributed across all communities.
In addition to the work already being done, Livingston believes that the following proposed ideas and concepts have the potential to improve equitable access to clean energy and electrification:
Strategic planning with the inclusion of input, participation, and perspectives of residents of these communities.
Equity-focused incentive programs.
Geo-targeted free/discounted charging with universal payment options.
Education and outreach initiatives targeting the specific needs of underserved communities.
Rebates for used EVs.
Rebates for residential charging.
"Trade-In" programs or events offering the opportunity to swap an ICE vehicle for an EV.
The EV era is still relatively new to most. While many automakers are making commitments to EV options, full EV fleets, and even eliminating ICE vehicles' production entirely, EVs are still quite expensive. Despite efforts to focus on disadvantaged communities, low-income or otherwise disadvantaged consumers may face challenges such as financing, vital EV knowledge, and language barriers. (Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), 2020)
As EVs continue gaining popularity, there is a subsequent increase in the presence of used EVs, which are much cheaper than anything brand new and just as reliable. However, used vehicles can still come with a cost barrier to many. To further include disadvantaged communities in electrification efforts, electrifying public transportation, and offering emissions-free ride-share programs serve to provide access to clean transportation while significantly reducing if not eliminating cost barriers.
Unfortunately, our nation currently faces a daunting number of climate-related issues to address quickly, most of which intertwine with one another. While it can be overwhelming to think about, Livingston supports the World Health Organization's mission and is proud to be part of creating a clean environment for all. We believe that with the right efforts and inclusivity and ensuring that modernization benefits all Americans, climate goals can successfully be achieved, and we are proud to be part of that!
Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM). (2020). EXPANDING EQUITABLE ACCESS TO ELECTRIC VEHICLE MOBILITY . Boston: Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).
United States Department of Energy. (2021). Reducing Pollution with Electric Vehicles. Retrieved from Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/reducing-pollution-electric-vehicles
World Health Organization. (2021). #AirPollution. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/air-pollution#:~:text=Ambient%20air%20pollution%20alone%20caused,deaths%20in%20the%20same%20period.
World Health Organization. (2021, April 7). World Health Day 2021. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2021