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As investment grows in electric cars, groups work to make sure the future is fair

electric vehicles
Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 10, 2021

If you see electric vehicles as futuristic or unrealistic, go for a ride with Dr. Shelley Francis.

“People just need to be educated about what it’s like to drive an electric car," she explained.

While the high-tech, smooth experience of her Tesla may feel out of this world, she’s here to tell you these cars are very much reality in reach.

“It’s a misconception that electric vehicles are only for wealthy people or people in the suburbs," Dr. Francis said.

Dr. Francis and Terry Travis are the co-founders of EV Hybrid Noire, the nation’s largest network of diverse electric vehicle owners.

“Electric vehicles are going from the flip phone you had years ago to the latest smartphone. It’s that dramatic of the difference," Travis said.

As President Joe Biden plans to invest billions in electric cars, they want to make sure people of all backgrounds are behind the wheel.

“Most folks have this ideology that Teslas are really expensive. Well, the idea is that there are 68 different electric vehicles available today," Travis said.

Travis and Dr. Francis also work to make sure cities across the country are putting the right infrastructure in place to support an electric future, like charging stations in communities of all income levels.

“As we begin to develop this, it’s going to be more critical that we are very clear and precise on how we want to get more diverse voices and more diverse households engaged in this eco-system," Travis said.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new electric car is around $51,000, but the price has been on the decline in recent years.

Automakers have produced more affordable options like the Nissan Leaf, which can cost around $30,000 brand new.

Travis says pre-owned electric cars can go for as low as $5,000.

The federal government offers a tax incentive worth up to $7,500 for certain electric cars. Most states offer their own incentives to buy electric cars, too.

“Ways we can increase diversity in who owns an electric vehicle is showing there are people from all walks of life," Dr. Francis said.

But beyond improving who we see driving electric cars, Dr. Francis points to an issue that can be hard to see.

“It’s the silent crisis. We call it the public health crisis that not enough people are talking about,” she said.

Dr. Francis hopes increasing the number of electric vehicles can counter pollution that disproportionately impacts communities of color.

“For some communities, adopting electric vehicles is cool technology, but for others, it's a public health nightmare," she said.

Driving isn’t always about where we are going, but how we feel getting there, how we look on the way to our destination. That's why, for Dr. Francis, driving electric goes beyond her own experience.

“I hope I’m modeling this behavior to other folks, not just friends and family, but people in my community so they can see they this is a normal thing. This is not something special. You do not have to be a mega-millionaire to be able to afford this. A regular working person can afford this," Dr. Francis said.