Nearly 300 individuals representing ten communities, speaking eight different languages, of all ages from children to seniors. This was the extent of our outreach on electric vehicles in the last two months!
The City of Seattle has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. And changing the way we as a city get from point A to point B is central to reaching that goal. Transportation is the single greatest source of carbon emissions in Seattle, almost doubling the emissions of buildings – the next largest carbon emission sector.
Clean energy solutions such as electric cars offer significant opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. But although underserved communities such as ones of immigrants, refugees and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by issues such as air pollution, climate solutions tend to reach these communities the least. This is why Seattle’s strategy for electrifying the city’s transportation includes a lens on racial and social justice.
Thus, we were excited to partner with Forth to conduct multicultural outreach on electrical vehicles in neighborhoods around South Seattle. This included focus groups, listening sessions and surveys with Somali, Latino/a, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and other communities where residents could voice their needs and concerns about electric vehicles and transportation access in general. Our outreach culminated in two Electric Car 101 public listening sessions where we answered questions and concerns for the broader community and brought electric vehicles for community members to explore.
Top transportation concerns included increasing traffic, public transit access and the cost of gas while top electric vehicle concerns included their affordability as well as uncertainty around charging cars and driving range. Nevertheless, interviewees overwhelmingly wished to see more electric vehicles in their community, citing that they were good for the environment and avoided air pollution.
These communities care about the environment and support climate change solutions. But they also face additional challenges in rising costs of living, gentrification and social exclusion. The rise of electric vehicles could push underserved communities out. But by including diverse communities in the conversation and implementation around clean energy, we can all promote a cleaner, more equitable Seattle together.