Emerging environmental justice issues at the intersection of transportation and electricity systems

Eleanor M. Hennessy, Inês M. L. Azevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

Rapid decarbonization of the transportation system is needed to address global climate change, and electrification of the transportation sector will likely be an important strategy to achieve decarbonization goals. While electrification is an effective approach to reducing carbon emissions, it may result in environmental justice consequences that need to be tackled. We discuss four categories of related issues: air quality and health-related equity; technology access; equitable infrastructure development; and a just global supply chain. In regions where grid decarbonization is well under way, transport-related disparities in air quality and health are expected to decrease with electrification. In contrast, in regions that still rely heavily on coal generation, disparities may increase, putting further strain on low-income communities and people of color. The high upfront cost of electric vehicles and limited access to charging present additional challenges for achieving equity in transportation electrification. Meeting the electricity demand of a fully electric vehicle fleet will require rapid expansion of power generation, transmission, and distribution capacity, and the location and design of this infrastructure will have further impacts on communities where it is sited. Here, we offer a perspective on these emerging environmental justice issues at the intersection of transportation and electricity systems and provide policy recommendations and future research directions for electrified transportation. We suggest there is a need for policies targeting electrification and power sector decarbonization in tandem, assessment of barriers to electric vehicle adoption in different groups, development of strategies for community inclusion in infrastructure development decisions, and creation of frameworks to assess equity tradeoffs along the global supply chain supporting electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033003
JournalProgress in Energy
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2024

Keywords

  • decarbonization
  • electricity systems
  • energy justice
  • environmental justice
  • transportation

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