Fair or not, electric vehicles (EVs) still often come across as the preferred cars for rich white bros. Sure, federal and state tax incentives help lower the price tag, but affording that downpayment for most EVs requires plenty of coin, not to mention the monthly payments and insurance. Years after EVs supposedly entered the mainstream, the argument that they require little maintenance and no gas does not always help to move the needle for those in the middle- and lower-income groups.
But it is not just the drivers who make the world of EVs appear so white that if it were any whiter it would be see-through. The promise of a charging infrastructure may be enticing, but most EV charging stations are in office parks or in the parking lots of pricier retail stores like Whole Foods — again, overlooking many neighborhoods across the U.S. and large subsets of the population.
There's also a stubborn problem with the country's charging infrastructure: Estimates suggest that up to 25 percent of public EV charging stations are out of commission at any time — and repairing them is often an expensive prospect. But what if charging stations for EVs could be troubleshooted and repaired far more cost-effectively, while providing good-paying jobs in vulnerable communities? One startup believes it has the answer.
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ChargerHelp! says its on-demand charging station repair service is primed to tackle this ongoing challenge with EVs and can do so by meeting the demands of workforce development, adult learning and clean technology. Based in south Los Angeles, the company says it is working with residents in LA’s marginalized neighborhoods to equip them with the technology training and certification they need to repair charging stations.
“Our solution serves African American and LatinX communities specifically by increasing opportunities for those traditionally left behind and most marginalized to access digital and 21st-century skills, meet employer demands, and access the jobs of today and tomorrow,” the company recently said during a pitch at a recent MIT Solve competition.
ChargerHelp! is one of the social enterprises to be named this week as a top 15 solution in the Future of Work Grand Challenge, a $6 million prize competition led by the venture philanthropy organization New Profit, MIT Solve and JFF.
There will certainly be plenty of jobs that need to be filled in the coming decade if automakers’ plans to shift largely toward all-electric vehicles come to fruition. Currently there are 200,000 or so charging stations for EVs in the U.S. That number could surge to as many as 13 million by 2030, McKinsey predicts. That means more maintenance professionals will be needed coast to coast. And judging by the going rate of $175 for a three-hour site visit to troubleshoot and repair a charging station — even as the problem is frequently not an electrical one — the market will be ready for professionals who can repair these stations at a more economical rate, while at the same time these workers can make more than a living wage.
For now, ChargerHelp! and its app-based platform are operating as a pilot program in Los Angeles, but the startup’s co-founders say it has bold plans to expand to more states including Colorado, New York, Oregon and Washington.
“We just need to bridge the gap to the technology industry because it is fast growing, it is going to be robust, and we need to make sure that other communities are part of this growth spurt and this economic upturn that will happen to this industry,” said Evette Ellis, the chief workforce office and co-founder of ChargerHelp! in a recent pitch for funding, while also noting that her company has the potential to improve the overall experience of EVs for drivers.
Image credit: Ernest Ojeh/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.