Overcoming the Inequity of EV Ownership in Maryland
The recent National Climate Assessment has made clear that human-induced climate change has devastating effects. The I-95 Corridor of Maryland has been an ozone nonattainment area because of ground-level ozone experienced during our hot summers. Concerns over automobile based greenhouse gas emissions and poor air quality have induced the State of Maryland to set a goal of 300,000 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. According to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), the total number of registered EVs grew from 609 in FY 2012 to 15,074 in FY 2018. There is a long way to go to reach that goal, so federal and state governments have provided financial incentives for purchasing EVs.
Buyers of new EVs are currently eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 and state excise tax rebate of $3,000. State tax rebate eligibility is now capped at $63,000 purchase price; research shows that buyers of high-end luxury EVs are not influenced by financial incentives, but if your new EV costs $63,000 or less you are eligible for them. Further, Maryland EV owners, depending on the technology, pay little or no motor fuel tax to the state’s transportation trust fund. There are significant monetary incentives for purchasing a new EV, but none for purchasing a pre-owned one.
My colleagues, Hyeon-Shic Shin, Amirreza Nickkar, and I at Morgan State University analyzed data from a survey we conducted with the help of the MVA. MVA identified 4,282 EV (non-fleet) owners by county in summer 2016. They notified the owners by letter of survey objectives and a web link to our on line survey. We received 1,323 responses.
We found that EV owners are white (85%), male (75%), well educated, affluent (80% >$100,000 household income), older, urban/suburban oriented, and environmentally conscious; they charge at home and use the EV to commute to work (similar to findings in other areas of the country). “Environmental concerns” is the most important factor for purchasing and driving an EV; “price and status” is the second most important factor; “efficiency and performance” of the EV is the third most important. EV owners with lower household income (<$100,000), the remaining 20%, are younger, exurban/rural oriented, and concerned about price and status of the EV. Government at state and federal levels has been subsidizing mostly affluent households to purchase new EVs, which opens up a huge equity issue.
As an additional incentive to increase EV market share, the state, under the last administration, committed to placing charging facilities at Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) commuter rail and light rail stations with parking spaces in Baltimore and Central Maryland. Remarkably, no charging facilities were planned for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) METRO rail stations in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, despite those counties having high concentrations of EV owners. WMATA’s contracts for parking didn’t allow for charging facilities within the state’s time frame, so funding was instead allocated to additional MTA sites around Baltimore without consideration of commuter demand.
The state probably assumed that EV owners would be rail transit users when commuting to work, because they are environmentally conscious. However, our survey found that very few EV owners used rail transit for commuting to work prior to EV purchase (5%), and even fewer after purchase (2.6%). Yes, we confirmed that most EV owners are environmentally conscious, but they probably believe they’re contributing to environmental quality by owning an EV. As more employers add charging facilities at the work site, the incentive to commute with an EV grows.
To overcome the inequity of current EV incentives, the state should concentrate public charging facilities in exurban/rural and multifamily locations, where they are scarce, and steer financial incentives toward EV taxis, shared-ride and car-sharing fleets, and pre-owned EVs, which would promote EVs to lower income households. Coupled with incentives, the state should craft educational campaigns that inform households at all income levels about the climate and air quality benefits of EV ownership.
The legislative session in Maryland that ended in April 2019, unfortunately, ignored our study’s policy recommendations. It was during this session that the price cap for state tax rebates rose from $60,000 to $63,000, about what a fully optioned Tesla Model 3 costs. While some legislators pushed for a rebate on previously owned EVs, the incentive failed to wend its way through legislative committee review. For several years a proposal that would require home owners’ associations (HOA) to allow charging stations paid for by residents has died each year. Despite attempts to work with HOA on their concerns the proposal has died again; the HOA’ bans on EV charging stations continue. The petroleum dealers association used our study’s data to argue before a legislative committee that because the state’s financial incentives were inequitable, all EV incentives should be abolished, even though the study concluded that EV incentives should be targeted toward lower income households to overcome the inequity.
Some may conclude that Maryland’s policies have regressed despite the study’s recommendations and they would be correct. However, the future may be brighter, because at least legislators and interest groups are discussing and suggesting policies that would go toward incentivizing EVs for lower income households.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
I spoke last week with Krishna Desai from Cubic Transportation, and we discussed three big problems facing transportation, and the ways that Cubic is approaching these challenges:
1) If (or when) more workers return to traditional on-location jobs, but feel a lingering distrust of crowded spaces, people who can afford it may opt for private cars instead of using public transit for their commute. This will create a massive influx of cars on roads that were already crowded, and more financial woes for transit agencies already dealing with budget shortfalls. Krishna told me about a suite of optimization tools Cubic is deploying in places like Mexico and San Francisco to make public transit more efficient, more transparent, and, overall, more attractive to riders.
2) For the time being, though, we’re dealing with the opposite problem. How can transit agencies find ways to influence user behavior in a way that complies with social distancing and capacity requirements? How can you incentivize riders to wait for the next bus? (In a way that doesn’t alienate them forever – see #1). Cubic has deployed a loyalty/advertising program in Miami-Dade County that was originally intended to increase ridership, but is now being used to help control crowding and social distancing on transit.
3) Transportation infrastructure, in generally, was not built to accomodate 6-feet of separation between riders – or between workers. Little things like, for example, opening gates, requires workers to be closer than 6-feet to riders, and there are examples like that throughout every transit hub. Technology can help, but creating and implementing software/hardware solutions quickly and efficiently requires experience with innovation, deployment, maintenance and more. Cubic has a program called Project Rebound that shows the possibilities.
Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals.
Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can now be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network.
The introduction of intelligent transportation systems, which includes a broad network of smart roads, smart cars, smart streetlights and electrification are pushing roadways to new heights. Roadways are no longer simply considered stretches of pavement; they’ve become platforms for innovation. The ability to empower roadways with intelligence and sensing capabilities will unlock extraordinary levels of safety and mobility by enabling smarter, more connected transportation systems that benefit the public and the environment.