COMMUNITY GEM: Rap Hankins is driving electric vehicle awareness around the Dayton area

Rap Hankins’ motto is one that was adopted by Drive Electric Dayton, the local non-profit he leads: “EVs for All.”

“Unless we make EV’s affordable, accessible and reliable, nobody’s going to buy them,” said Hankins, 70, who is president of the group. He said he is dedicated to ensuring that equity exists when it comes to not only personal transportation, like cars and SUVs, but also multimodal transportation, like bicycles and buses.

“If you can’t get around in a region, you can’t work,” he said. “If you can’t get around in a region, you can’t enjoy things with your children. You feel like you’re separated from everybody else in your society.”

Jen Morin-Williamson, Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator at Sisters of the Precious Blood, nominated Hankins as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem, saying he is “well-known and respected” in the EV world and is often invited to speak or write about EVs and policy.

“Rap is a passionate advocate for electric cars in particularly historically underserved Black communities such as Trotwood,” Morin-Williamson said. “Low income and communities of color are always most impacted by the negative stressors of our environment.”

Hankins, when he learned of the nomination, sought to downplay the honor. “I don’t do these things to be recognized,” he said. “I do them because I live in the Miami Valley and I love where I live”

When two tornadoes hit the city of Trotwood in 2019, destroying three houses on Hankins’ block, he went out and purchased a gas generator.

“It was so noisy and it smelled so bad and it scared us (so much) as a family, that we went out and bought battery backup units,” he said. “And when we bought (those units) I said to the family ... ‘I really think it would be a cool idea to buy an electric vehicle.’”

The challenge, at that time, was having no charging stations in the city of Trotwood, said Hankins, an elected official of 16 years who remains “very active” in the community.

Hankins said he took his concerns to Drive Electric Dayton, which then did its first ride-and-drive event at the Salem Mall in 2021. He brought along his newly purchased Volkswagen ID.4, which he named “Whisper.”

“We had people sit in the cars ... and see how they feel because we believe that once you ride in an electric car, you won’t go back,” he said.

Hankins said that after that, he became deeply involved with Drive Electric Dayton, organizing events and stressing equity not just in Trotwood, but in all underserved communities in the Miami Valley to ensure EV chargers would be installed.

Morin-Williamson said Hankins promotes moving away from combustion cars as a critical step in reducing pollution and climate change and brings together city, county and state agencies to advocate for free to low-cost charging stations for EVs.

Hankins recently connected citizens with city of Dayton and Montgomery County representatives and Ohio Department of Transportation officials to discuss the Ohio locations of new federally funded charging stations.

“We’re advocating to put the infrastructure in place so that when the people are ready, the infrastructure is there for them,” he said.

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