Interested customers attended the Change Ahead event to learn more about electric vehicles. Photo By Art Torres
Interested customers attended the Charge Ahead event to learn more about electric vehicles. Photo By Art Torres
Interested customers attended the Charge Ahead event to learn more about electric vehicles. Photo By Art Torres

An effort to increase the number of electric vehicles in California, and to make them affordable to low-income residents was the focus at a recent event held at White Memorial Hospital.

The East Los Angeles Electric Vehicle Day was organized as part of the Vehicle Retirement and Replacement: Charge Ahead California Initiative, sponsored by a coalition of five environmental groups dedicated to improving the quality of life for millions of Californians.

With help from the coalition, Senator Kevin de Leon, (D) Los Angeles, authored bill 1275, which aims to increase the number of electric cars, trucks and buses in California to 1 million in the next 10 years. The legislation was approved by the State Senate earlier this year.

At the event, De Leon introduced his bill to community members by highlighting the unique environmental issues that exist in Boyle Heights because of the high number of freeway miles in the community.

“It is absolutely critical that we move forward in reducing the carbon emissions in our atmosphere,” said De Leon.

He also said it is important that electric vehicles become affordable to all eastside community members, many of which are low income, Spanish speaking residents.

“I want electric cars to speak Spanish,” said De Leon.

The event, held in conjunction with a Senior Health Fair on the hospital’s grounds, featured four, zero-emission vehicles that community members could examine closely, and learn about existing rebate programs and finance options.

The coalition’s ultimate goals are to transition California from fossil fuel burning vehicles to clean burning, electric vehicles, and to help reduce health hazards to those residents living in high risk areas.

According to the coalition, four in 10 Californians live in close proximity to freeways and other roads that negatively affect their health.

Many of these residents are at increased risk of asthma, cancer and other health related issues.

Charge Ahead Campaign Coordinator Michelle Kinman said Los Angeles is the No. 1 worst air pollution city in the country, according to a recent American Lung Association report.

“The cars, trucks and buses that we’re driving here in California account for more that 40 percent of global warming pollution than any other single source,” said Kinman.

She said seven or eight of the top worst air pollution cities are located in California.
“Nation-wide the largest source [of global warming pollution] are power plants, but here in California, it’s the transportation sector,” added Kinman.

Bahram Fazeli, research and policy director at Communities for a Better Environment, said the importance of community involvement in reaching the coalition’s goals cannot be understated, especially in impacted areas such as Boyle Heights.

“Boyle Heights is a good example of a community that is being disproportionately impacted by tailpipe emissions. A lot of our staff is rooted in this community,” said Fazeli.

Photo by Art Torres
Photo by Art Torres

Charge Ahead is also focused on making electric vehicles affordable to low and moderate income community members.

“We want everybody to have access to these kind of cars, not just people who have a lot of money,” said Fazeli.

SB 1275 will modify existing electric vehicle rebate programs that fall short of making these cars available to many.

It will implement buying incentives, improve on existing rebate programs and provide for the installation of charging stations here.

“It’s going to make it easier for people in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and other southeast communities to access these vehicles,” said Fazeli.

Many community members are not aware that electric vehicles are more affordable to operate than a fossil fuel burning vehicle, according to Fazeli.

“A lot of people don’t even know about the existing programs. After some of these things kick in, people will realize it costs a third to run an electric vehicle than it does a [fossil fuel burning] car,” said Fazeli.

Coalition groups are CBE, the Coalition for Clean Air, Environment California Research and Policy Center, The Greenlining Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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