The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will be a key contributor to research recently funded through a partnership between the University of California and the state intended to spur real-world solutions relating to climate change in California.
A team from the Center for Innovation, or LCI, will focus on community engagement relating to a project led by Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, that will look at how efforts to reduce greenhouse gases can better enable residents of disadvantaged communities to adopt electric vehicles more readily.
A $1.99 million grant under Zhu’s direction will fund the study of EV usage in communities that have historically lacked access to charging stations. The LCI researchers will work with local residents and community-based organizations to identify barriers, improve knowledge and awareness of EVs, and design plans for deploying and installing charging stations in underserved areas.
To date, the siting of EV chargers has been a top-down process driven by business priorities rather than community needs and preferences. Gregory Pierce, adjunct associate professor of urban planning and co-executive director of LCI, said researchers will partner with three community-based organizations in the Los Angeles area to co-design the first-ever procedurally equitable process for placement of EV chargers.
“We hope that this project leads to a new community co-designed model for placing electric vehicle charging stations throughout California that can accelerate our transition to a zero-emissions transportation future,” Pierce said.
The UCLA Luskin-affiliated team will be co-led by Rachel Connolly, project director for air quality and environmental equity research at LCI. The effort will include surveys and a three-part workshop process relating to the siting of EV chargers and future investments in coordination with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and other partners. Connolly, who earned doctorate and master’s degrees in environmental health sciences from UCLA, has been working at LCI since 2017.
In all, $83.1 million in California Climate Action grants were awarded to a total of 38 projects involving researchers from across the UC system, as well as California State University campuses, private universities and community, industry, tribal and public agencies. The two-year grants are part of $185 million allocated by the state for UC climate initiatives that advance progress toward California’s climate goals.