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The magnetism of electric cars is slowly drawing Texas closer

As consumer interest in EVs grows, government officials at all levels in Texas are trying to determine how to add infrastructure to support EV ownership in the state, says Texas A&M Transportation Research. said the person.

Fort Worth’s Chase Akin has owned an EV for three years and hopes to one day replace his family’s gas-powered minivan with an electric one. John Kent/Texas Climate News

Reducing the world’s fossil fuel vehicle fleet by using transportation, the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and one of the largest in the world, is within easy reach. It is widely regarded as an achievement to enter and ready for battle. against climate change. To that end, and for reasons ranging from low operating costs to driving excitement, electric vehicle sales are skyrocketing globally, including the Texas oil patch.

In 2019, Fort Worth’s Chase Akin purchased a new all-electric Tesla Model 3 sedan primarily for its Autopilot suite of electronic driver assistance devices. He envisioned the system protecting him from distractions and eventually doing some of the driving while catching up on emails and other work during long commutes. The system certainly boasts some high-tech features that Aiken found useful, such as automatic steering, lane changing and parking, but in general it’s more powerful than he and many Tesla owners expected. Evolving slowly.

But as we waited for the technology to mature, something happened. It was then that the car’s other charms began to work like magic. “A lot of the reason I’m glad I bought this car now has a lot to do with the EV side,” he says. “It’s a very easy car. Electric cars are very easy to maintain. Good long-term spending and good for the environment.”

The inherent performance of EVs is something to behold. “You see, you can hit the accelerator and go as fast as you want. EVs are basically fast.

growing demand

Akin is one of the fastest growing Texas drivers moving to battery electric vehicles. The number of EVs registered in the state increased by 55% from 2020 to 2021, and by the end of last year he had 81,000 EVs on Lone Star state roads. (Globally, EV sales have doubled he in the same period.) In terms of absolute EV numbers by state, Texas is near the top, followed by California (563,000) and Florida (96,000).

But in terms of penetration per capita, Texas’ numbers look pretty weak. At the dawn of 2022, only 1 in 370 Texans was driving an EV. In the absence of supply constraints, the ratio could be tighter.

EVs such as the Cadillac Lyriq, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4 SUV and Ford F-150 Lightning pickup have already sold out for their model years, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV have nearly doubled in production. There is a demand for , and Tesla’s turmoil has put the brand’s more popular models on chronic backorders. All 2,000 EV rebate applications for the program have been discussed until the next legislative funding period.

That said, looking at sales trends, there is a clear move away from gasoline cars and toward EVs. EV sales rose 66% year-over-year nationwide in the second quarter of 2022, even as the overall auto market fell 20% from his. According to a survey cited in his November 2022 issue of Consumer Reports, the percentage of Americans who say they “definitely” plan to buy an EV has more than tripled since 2020.

The Texas legislature continues to be a fanatical supporter of the state’s oil and gas industry and zealously avoids acting on virtually any measure that mentions the word “climate.” This is a pattern that has been going on for years. But it leaves the door open for electric cars to creak, as evidenced by both funding EV rebates and pursuing EV-centric businesses like Tesla’s giant Austin manufacturing plant, Giga Texas. I’m leaving it alone.

Texas government action

Far from ignoring battery-powered vehicles, state governments are actively preparing for a future in which EVs overtake markets and roads, says Ben Ettelman of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

Ettelman, Associate Research Scientist and Manager of TTI’s Health and Sustainability Program, said:

As these initiatives advance and consumer interest in EVs continues to grow in Texas, out-of-state market forces are increasingly exerting pressure within Texas. California recently moved to phase out the sale of new gasoline vehicles by 2035. This is what many other states are expected to follow under federal authorities to adopt California’s emission rules. There are objections to these moves to accelerate EV adoption. The Republican Attorney General of Texas and 16 other states have filed lawsuits to block California’s ban.

But regardless of whether the Republican-filed lawsuit wins or not, most major automakers have decided to end production or development of most or all fossil fuel vehicles in the next decade or so. publicly promised. Meanwhile, many governments around the world have already passed laws banning or restricting the sale of such vehicles as early as 2030, ensuring a sharp decline in global demand for internal combustion engine vehicles. I’m here.

Here in the United States, the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act provides a tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new domestically produced EV, and a tax credit of up to $4,000 for the purchase of a used car (or 30% of the price, whichever is lower). EVs that are at least two years old and cost less than $25,000. These incentives will come into force in 2023. The law also guarantees the construction of a national network of EV chargers.

Texas is pursuing its own plans to use up to $408 million in funding from the recently enacted federal bipartisan infrastructure law to install hundreds of EV charging locations across the state. Ettelman, a research scientist at TTI, believes the confluence of circumstances will lead to a steady increase in the number of EVs on Texas roads.

“The two most prominent factors affecting EV ownership are the increasing number of EVs produced by automakers, especially legacy. [automakers] – And the second is the influx of funds provided through the federal government through policies such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to significantly expand charging infrastructure. “

more affordable model

Affordable pre-owned EVs are also beginning to flood the market, attracting buyers who may not be able to afford a new EV. Among the domestic used EV markets, Texas is her second largest after California.

“While EVs were seen as a luxury in the not-too-distant past, the availability of affordable EVs and EVs entering the resale market, coupled with accessible charging infrastructure, has led to adoption in Texas. It should increase rates,” Ettelman said.

EVs are still more expensive to buy than fossil-fueled vehicles, despite their significantly lower operating costs, and prices could impact how quickly Texans switch from internal combustion vehicles.

“As we see EV manufacturers continue to bring affordable EVs to market and charging infrastructure becomes accessible and affordable, EV ownership will likely increase,” Ettelman said. said. “Conversely, if manufacturers decide that affordable EVs do not fit their business model and/or access to charging infrastructure is difficult or is becoming increasingly expensive, EV ownership is It can stagnate.”

Fort Worth Tesla owner Akin says he and his wife, Hannah, “would like to have two electric cars” when EVs come out with the ability to move people like minivans. With four small children and all his belongings in a cart, Eakins has his eye on the Volkswagen ID.Buzz, a battery-powered van with styling reminiscent of his iconic VW microbus. .

Akin hopes to never buy a gas car again, but given the current state of EV technology, a conventional pickup is probably best suited for his vision of towing an RV on family outings. I admit that it will

“I’m not who I am, so only when I become that kind of guy. But I hope that’s not the case,” Akin said. “You know, I don’t want my kids to learn how to drive, so I hope the autopilot recovers soon. I don’t know how to put gas in the car or teach them how to change the oil.” I don’t want to, and I don’t think I’ll need it in 10 years.”

John Kent is a Fort Worth-based writer who specializes in transportation and environmental topics. He is a contributing editor for his Texas Climate News.