Inequality and the Future of Electric Mobility in 36 U.S. Cities: An Innovative Methodology and Comparative Assessment

Patricia Romero-Lankao, Alana Wilson, Daniel Zimny-Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations


Electric vehicles are seen as one of the technological solutions to transition our transportation systems away from carbon, and cities offer unique opportunities to electrify transportation. To be equitable, however, this transition will not merely require technological innovations. Acknowledging socio-spatial inequalities and creating strategies to address them are critical—yet relatively underexplored—dimensions of the transportation transition. This paper integrates relevant literature into a micro-urban social typology (MUST) approach that uses agglomerative clustering techniques to examine, first, the factors and attributes defining transportation inequities within 36 U.S. cities, and, second, the implications of these inequities for policies that foster a more equitable transportation transition. By combining socio-spatial and transportation data, we identified five MUSTs: Wealthy, Urban Disadvantaged, Urban Renters, Middle-Class Homeowners, and Rural/Exurban. Rather than being tied to any particular indicator (e.g., homeownership), these MUSTs contain intersecting factors and features of inequities. We compare transportation and health outcomes across MUSTs, and the results suggest that user-centric strategies and public investments are necessary to foster true transportation equity. These must go beyond the electrification of private vehicles and should be tailored to the specific characteristics of each MUST. These could include electric carpooling for the rural/exurban MUST and electrification of transit for the urban disadvantaged and renter MUSTs. Our typology offers a critical next step toward informing transportation transition policies to target critical sociodemographic, economic, and techno-infrastructural factors.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102760
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-77749


  • Cities
  • Electric vehicle adoption
  • Equitable and just transitions
  • Health risks
  • Transportation equity
  • Typologies


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