Q & A with Terea Macomber, GRID Alternatives’ Electric Vehicle Project Manager

Terea Macomber is GRID Alternatives’ Electric Vehicle Project Manager. You can read more about some of the resources mentioned in this interview here.

Q. How would you describe EV Ride and Drive events?

A. An EV Ride and Drive event is essentially an opportunity for folks to test drive a variety of electric vehicles (EVs) and learn about the various incentive programs that may be available to them. They are devised primarily to bring education and awareness to communities where electric vehicles are not as popular and are a little mystifying. We’re also trying to battle the stereotype that Teslas are the only EVs available, and that they're only for rich people.

These events are funded through our work with Electrify America. Part of our contract with Electrify America was to host six Ride and Drive events around California, specifically in disadvantaged communities (as defined by The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act Senate Bill 350). We've had 7 ride and drives over the course of the last 6 months around California in Richmond, Southgate Los Angeles, Southeast San Diego, Fresno City College and Native communities in Arcata and Pauma Valley.  

When we do these ride and drive events we are also taking the opportunity to talk to communities about pairing their EVs with solar. The benefits of being able to charge cars and fuel with the sun is an incredible piece of climate justice and climate resilience for communities that are already facing the highest burden when it comes to climate change. 

Q. Why do you think it’s important to focus on clean mobility?

A. People are familiar with the housing burden; gas burden is similar. Across the country low income communities spend close to $75 billion on gasoline per year.  We can only imagine what that $75 billion would do if it was reinvested into their communities, into their local grocery stores, restaurants, schools, etc.

When we talk about Electric Vehicles, people think that we are trying to sell cars -- but we have a bigger mission. We are trying to get people into cleaner cars because we care about the climate and air, but we also are taking into account the economic disparity created by gasoline.  As an organization, we are focused on aligning with our mission of bringing equity and focusing on people, planet and employment -- we can touch on all of these with transportation as well.

Q. What has been the reaction of the community members as you’ve traveled around to the different Ride and Drives?

A. Excitement! When community members see EVs at regular events within their community we are building trust and normalizing electric vehicles. It gives communities the opportunity to learn more about a new technology in the comfort (and safety) of their community. Because people are able to ask questions and drive the vehicles many of their fears of the technology go away and are replaced by curiosity and excitement!

Q. What’s your advice to people in communities of concerns as they try to purchase an electric vehicle?

A. It can seem a little bit scary, but you don’t have to go through it alone. The primary questions are “where can I charge this car” and  “can I afford this car?”. 

There’s an incredible network of associations, nonprofits and other resources (including GRID’s Ride and Drive events) that are perfect places to learn more about electric vehicles. I encourage people to go to cleanvehiclegrants.org to get more info on rebates for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.  We hope that we can continue to help empower grassroot organizations and local nonprofits to have the knowledge and the resources to be able to open the door for those who are unfamiliar with this technology.  They have the ability to help those in their communities who want to divest from this huge system of oppression: using gasoline.

Q. You mentioned low income electric vehicle incentives, can you tell us more?

A. Through our parallel work on the One Stop Shop Pilot Project through the CA Air Resources Board, we are streamlining access to incentives that help lower income communities afford an EV.  The work includes building a webtool that helps trusted community organizations and consumers understand the program(s) that they are eligible for. We will be doing a limited release of the tool with our outreach partners later this year. If you want more information or would like to be part of the limited release please contact me. The two programs that are exist for San Diego residents is the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program (the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program is not currently accepting new applicants). Both of these programs are statewide and highly accessible. For example, the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program only has four requirements

Q. What do you envision in the future? 

A. Our Clean Mobility Team is rapidly growing.  Aligning with our mission of people, planet and employment, we want to allow access to communities that might not be eligible for solar but also have an opportunity to address climate change and save money through their personal habits.  In regards to employment, we must be constantly reminding stakeholders at all levels that the infrastructure needed to fully switch to electric vehicle transportation is vast and our employment rates are low. Those that are unemployed, underemployed, justice-involved, etc. will hopefully see the construction and electrician fields, and other blue-collar unionized avenues as amazing ways to build self and a stable life. Historically, certain community members have not been at the table when it’s time to build infrastructure. We want to change that, transitioning transportation from a privilege to a right.  

Check out some photos from the San Diego Ride and Drive event!