Solar and electric vehicles rev up the Southeast!—Stories from our growing EV work


June 18, 2019
A person in a blue shirt talks about the car to a person in a cap

Our work on clean mobility – the far-reaching effects of helping people access transportation options that are sustainable economically and environmentally – is vital part of the change Greater Los Angeles hopes to see in Southern California. Getting solar energy into low-income, polluted communities unlocks so many opportunities; one of them is providing a source of fuel, where electric cars get to run via power from the sun. Whether those vehicles are fully electric or hybrid, whether they look like a ride for the whole family or a heavy-duty truck, we're aiming to get all SoCal commuters on the road with a non-polluting means of travel. And in cities like South Gate, we start with the same sorts of families we've always served through solar programs: lower-income Californians who stand to benefit from resources and support to achieve their household goals.

Test-drive employees welcome people at an outdoor
Plug In America presented our latest test-drive event through Electrify America, which helped families get behind the wheel.

The GLA team's participated previously in successful driving opportunities with Electrify America, and GRID sister offices in places like San Diego and Humboldt have, too. What's so special about these EV ride-and-drives right in the community? For one thing, they provide welcoming and inclusive opportunities for people from all backgrounds and economic situations to see a clean car up close. In many of the L.A. neighborhoods with the lowest rates of access to EVs – particularly communities of color, where black and Latino families might be breathing 40% more smog pollution than a white community – getting around without gasoline still seems like a lifestyle choice that's out of reach. It's one of L.A.'s entrenched environmental justice shortcoming that's been decades in the making.

We're trying to change that with initiatives like Saturday's event in South Gate, which we hope opens the gateway to much more! On the historic Tweedy Boulevard in South Gate's industrialized westside, the former site of an automobile manufacturing plant had recently been transformed to a public school complex that serves some of the region's lowest-income neighborhoods. We set up shop under the solar carports at Southeast Middle School and made the school grounds into a clean vehicle showcase, where test-drive participants from as close as Downey and as far as San Diego promoted clean mobility options. More than sixty trips up and down Tweedy with Plug In America brought EVs a new level of visiblity in this L.A. community, where auto jobs haven't existed on a large scale for two generations.

A fully-electric car's open hood shows the workings of the engine
Electric vehicles don't always show up in our communities … but they should be available to everyone!
With the presence of onsite vendors like KIGT and GRID Alternatives – two companies that focus on workforce opportunities for communities left out of the EV mainstream – we hope South Gaters can start imagining a very different environment in their city. It's a future where zero-emission cars have the road, getting South Gate children to and from places like Southeast High School! Plus, it's a civic vision where people whose neighborhoods have traditionally been burdened by tailpipe emissions are now employed maintaining and promoting EV infrastructure. Economically and socially, this is a win-win scenario for South Gate that we're committed to working with organizations like East Yard Communties for Environmental Justice to seeing.

The best time to drive this work forward is right now! Through California's leadership, both local and statewide, significant savings have been made available to help low-income Angelenos lease or buy EVs offered by both domestic and foreign manufacturers. (Indeed, the Center for Sustainable Energy connected a lot of prospective EV owners to the information they were looking for onsite Saturday!) We're grateful to have worked with both Plug In America, who made our successful drives possible, and our Liberty Hill allies, who team up with East Yard to make the community included and document participation. With our partners, we encourage you to learn more about what we're doing to get you in the driver's seat in an equitable city that's accessible to all of us.

We appreciate the funding for our South Gate ride-and-drive, made possible through Electrify America!