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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Electric system reliability cited by low-income customers as barrier to EV adoption

According to a survey conducted by JD Power and Associates for LUMA Energy, only 1% of the low-income customers surveyed own a fully electric vehicle and about 0.2% own a plug-in hybrid vehicle. (Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash)

By The Star Staff

Most low-income customers in Puerto Rico are not interested or have not considered buying an electric vehicle (EV) and cited electric system reliability as a reason for not buying an EV, according to surveys conducted by LUMA Energy.

The results are contained in a customer outreach memorandum LUMA Energy submitted to the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) on Jan. 2 that contained the results of two surveys. The first consisted of interviews with community leaders engaged with low-income communities. The second consisted of online EV customer surveys conducted by JD Power and Associates that included low-income customers to better understand EV adoption barriers. A total number of 4,269 respondents participated in the survey in 2022, and 1,873 customers participated in the survey in 2023.

LUMA Energy, the private operator of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s energy transmission and distribution system, noted that only 1% of the surveyed low-income customers own a fully electric vehicle and about 0.2% own a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

About 41% said they have not considered buying an electric vehicle and 38% said they have no interest in owning an EV. Only 1.7% said they plan on getting an EV for their next vehicle.

About 23% of the low-income people surveyed said electric system reliability was a big concern in their reluctance to buy an EV, 19% cited the prices of electric vehicles and 17% cited the price of electricity rates. About 3% cited the availability of public charging stations and 25% said they did not know enough to decide about buying an EV.

The survey showed education on EVs was needed among low-income customers. Seventy-four percent said they have heard about electric vehicles but did not know much about them, while 19% said they knew quite a lot about electric vehicles and only 7% said they knew a lot about them.

During the separate interviews with the community leaders, some responded that their communities have competing priorities such as conventional public transportation accessibility, housing, food and health needs.

“Transportation electrification appears to be a low priority for the low-income community,” the LUMA report said.

Based on the information from the two studies, LUMA said future studies should focus on identifying the timing of adequate economic incentives for the low-income community to facilitate the purchase of an electric vehicle.

LUMA also said in the report that it has initiated talks with “the first transportation company in Puerto Rico to incorporate electric vehicles into its fleet through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.” The company added 25 electric buses to its fleet and is working to expand its electric bus inventory. The company, which was not named, said its services directly impact low-income communities.

The studies were the result of a PREB order issued to LUMA in 2022 to evaluate EV adoption in Puerto Rico. The PREB asked, among other things, that the private operator focus on low-income customers and develop a plan that considers the unique mobility challenges of low- and moderate-income households, ensuring that the benefits of clean transportation are broadly shared. The PREB also indicated that LUMA should develop an understanding of what low-income customers want and need from transportation electrification.

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