Photograph by Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two Uber rides changed the career trajectory of Shelley Francis, ’95. A pre-med health sciences and women’s studies major at UR, she went on to achieve master’s and doctoral degrees in public health and teaches graduate-level public health courses at Walden University.

On two occasions in two cities while traveling for work, she found herself chatting with the drivers of electric vehicles. Her curiosity piqued, she realized that electric vehicles not only might be a good fit for her lifestyle, but also might address public health concerns around respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and life expectancy.

Soon after becoming an EV owner, she co-founded EVHybridNoire, a nonprofit bridging transportation innovation, public and environmental health, and equity. Now the nation’s largest network of diverse EV owners, it increases awareness, education, and advocacy on sustainable transportation across a diverse set of communities.

“The transportation landscape is changing,” said Francis. Electric vehicles provide mobility without gas costs, almost no maintenance costs, and clean emissions at increasingly affordable prices. For people burdened by transportation costs and challenges, and in neighborhoods affected most heavily by air pollution, electric vehicles offer good news for improving daily life for years to come, she said.

Retirees, immigrants, college students, entrepreneurs — everyone stands to benefit from this transit innovation, Francis noted, though not all are at the business table or engaged in community-level discussions. “If your voice isn’t at the table, decisions are being made that impact you, but you don’t have any say in it.”

That’s another problem EVHybridNoire takes on, promoting STEM education, awareness, and workforce development opportunities in the new green economy.

“Electrification,” she said, “is definitely the wave of the future.”