In Massachusetts, a fair approach to electric transport

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Massachusetts announced $5 million in grants for pilot projects to connect disadvantaged populations to clean electric transportation.

The program, known as Accelerating Clean Transportation for All, will fund 10 projects across the state that focus on improving electric taxi infrastructure, increasing e-bike adoption, l not-for-profit fleet electrification or e-vehicle consumer education.

“The overarching goal of this program is to address clean transportation in areas that are overburdened with greenhouse gases and also underserved by public transportation,” said Rachel Ackerman, director of transportation programs at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. , the agency that administers the grant program.

Environmental justice has been at the center of Massachusetts politics since last year, when the state passed ambitious climate legislation that included several provisions aimed at ensuring the clean energy transition benefits low-income residents and communities of color. . Accelerating Clean Transportation for All was developed with this goal in mind.

Winning proposals will receive between $152,000 and $1 million to implement their plans. The clean energy center is in the process of finalizing contracts with beneficiaries, but many projects should be launched this summer.

The projects are likely to encourage more people to use electric transport, but the goal goes beyond direct impact. The hope is that the implementation of the projects will offer insight into effective strategies for expanding access to clean transportation.

“We’re going to get a lot of metrics and lessons learned,” Ackerman said. “All of these are meant to be pilots to help identify the best way to scale these types of projects.”

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Five of the projects relate to increasing the number of e-bikes on the road, from a City of Boston initiative to use cargo e-bikes for delivery services to a plan to launch a bike-sharing service power stations in western Massachusetts.

Metro Mobility, a Cambridge-based clean transportation startup, will receive $1 million to increase e-bike ridership in low-income areas and environmental justice neighborhoods. The plan is to deploy 170 bikes in three different models, allowing the company and the state to assess which approach is most effective in replacing fossil fuel-based commuting.

One model will create e-bike stations in high-density areas, from which anyone can rent a bike for the day for as little as $1, to be brought back to the same location. The other two models will give riders their own e-bikes; some of these participants will have access to charging infrastructure, others will be invited to charge their bikes at home. All bikes will be equipped with GPS, so Metro Mobility can analyze in detail how and where the bikes are used.

While the lack of safe routes, concerns about police profiling and driver harassment can pose significant barriers to cycling for people of color, the program is meant to be a learning experience for everyone involved.

“The grant will allow us to deploy our system in different ways and see how it will be most useful,” said Ryan Walas, the company’s chief marketing officer.

A project on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard is also trying ways to get more e-bikes on the road. The Cape Light Compact, a regional energy aggregator and service organization, has received $496,000 for its plan to offer rebates of up to 75% off the purchase price of e-bikes purchased by residents of 12 cities identified as environmental justice zones. The goal is to roll out 240 additional e-bikes starting this spring.

Interested buyers will sign up for the pact and receive notice of approval. Buyers can then take this endorsement to a designated partner bike shop. The discount will be applied at the point of sale so that the buyer only has to pay the 25% share; the store will be reimbursed and collect a small administrative fee. Participating stores must also include a bicycle helmet, bicycle lock and one year of maintenance.

The arrangement makes it easier for low-income shoppers who might struggle to find the full price up front and also streamlines program administration, compact administrator Maggie Downey said.

“The bike shops are very interested and want to get it started as soon as possible,” Downey said.

Deploy electric cars

Other projects aim to expand the use of electric cars for personal use, in fleets and as transport vehicles for rental.

Some of the projects aim to accelerate the electrification of taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, such as those operated by Uber and Lyft drivers. The Massachusetts Port Authority, the quasi-public agency that operates Boston Logan International Airport, has received $615,000 to install charging infrastructure and develop incentive programs that will encourage ride-hailing companies to switch to electric vehicles.

The Way Forward Taxi Alliance, a group of taxi industry stakeholders that came together last spring to help move the sector forward, will use its $500,000 prize to help minority-owned taxi companies both to shift to electric vehicles and to deploy technology that will help drivers better plan routes and coordinate with each other. The grant money will help overcome a major obstacle to that vision, planners said.

“There’s a lot of interest in doing this, but the cost is currently prohibitive for most drivers,” said Chenelle Brown, the alliance’s director of external relations.

Other efforts focus on education and awareness. In the town of Sturbridge, the Electric Vehicle Discovery Center, a new facility to share information about clean transportation, will receive a $500,000 grant to fund their education and outreach. The nonprofit Green Energy Consumers Alliance has received $315,000 to work with Quincy Asian Resources to integrate electric vehicle education and awareness into workforce development and programs for youth.

The idea is to help overcome current stereotypes about the ability to drive electric vehicles, said Anna Vanderspek, director of the electric vehicle program at the Green Energy Consumers Alliance.

“There is this feeling that [electric vehicles] are luxury vehicles, culturally,” she said. “If we want to make electric mobility accessible to more people, we need to do something special and more to make sure that happens.”

Soldier On, a Western Massachusetts nonprofit that provides housing and services to veterans, will use its $152,000 grant to replace three of the vehicles it uses to ferry veterans to appointments. up with electric models and install charging infrastructure. The organization, which offers customers some 20,000 rides each year, hopes to both help the environment and save money by reducing fuel and maintenance costs.

“We want to do something that’s fuel efficient — not something where we pump fossil fuels into the atmosphere,” said Dominick Sondrini, vice president of Soldier On. “And what will eventually happen is that we can do our job cheaper.”

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