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Communities of color push for more electric vehicle charging stations

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An electric car owner said transportation officials have a chance to correct a major blind spot in electric vehicle infrastructure.

Leigh Riley Evans bought an electric car at the end of last year and installed a charger in her garage. She said she likes no longer having to pay for gas, but she has to plan her trips carefully to ensure she has enough battery charge.

Evans lives on Indianapolis’ near north side. Most of the electric vehicle charging stations in Indianapolis are located either downtown or outside I-465, and many of them are in either car dealership lots or parking garages that charge fees.

The only available charging stations in any of the north side neighborhoods, many of which are predominantly Black and historically have gotten limited public investment, are at DeveloperTown, the Children’s Museum, the state fairgrounds, and the Marion County Juvenile Justice Center, and not all of those chargers are readily accessible. Evans said even her membership through Electrify America charging network is of only limited use.

“The closest one of those is down in Beech Grove, which is several miles away from my home,” Evans said. “I don’t travel to the south side on a regular basis.”

The bipartisan infrastructure law that passed in November includes funding to establish 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. INDOT is currently crafting a plan to implement Indiana’s portion of the plan. INDOT Deputy Chief of Staff Scott Manning said by law, at least 40 percent of them have to benefit historically marginalized communities in urban or rural areas. That means they must be located either in or near such communities.

“Some of those communities have historically been impacted by air quality concerns from vehicular congestion, and other concerns so being able to support electric vehicle usage and electric vehicle adoption in those areas has the potential to have some very positive results in terms of improving the air quality for those communities,” Manning said.

Evans is the director of community development for Eastern Star Baptist Church. When the church built a new community center near 34th and Massachusetts, it included conduits for an electric car charging station. Evans said the church is pushing INDOT to include similar such efforts in its electric vehicle plan. She said groups such as hers have met with INDOT to share their concerns, and so far, those talks have gone well.

“They’ve been at the table,” Evans said, “and so we just want to make sure that those conversations continue and that outreach to the broader community is available.”

Manning said federal guidelines direct transportation officials to put electric vehicle charging stations along interstate corridors or within one mile of an interchange. He said this should allow Indiana to cover as much as 95 percent of its population. News-8 asked whether conversations with groups such as Evans’ would continue, and he said the electric vehicle infrastructure plan will be subject to continuous revisions.

“We really want to continue to have people and stakeholders be engaged,” Manning said.

INDOT has until Aug. 1 to submit its electric vehicle plan to the federal government. Manning said approval should come by the end of September.