When Tom “Smitty” Smith talks with Texans about potentially purchasing an electric vehicle, their No. 1 reason for skepticism is the high cost. Recent estimates put the average new electric car price at $66,000.
Their second top concern? A problem known as “range anxiety,” or the fear they will be stranded somewhere because there are not adequate charging locations in rural areas or along major highways.
Smith, who leads the statewide advocacy group Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, is confident that up to $408 million from the federal infrastructure law will expand access to charging stations statewide.
The Federal Highway Administration recently approved the Texas Department of Transportation’s plan to place an electric vehicle charging station roughly every 50 miles across the state.
“The state’s goal is to get charging stations from Brownsville to the northwest corner of the state, or from Orange to El Paso so that you can drive your electric vehicle to Grandma’s house in way out west Texas,” Smith said. “Within three to five years, that range anxiety will evaporate for most Texans.”
Within the first year of TxDOT’s plan, the state will install 55 fast-charging stations near the interstates connecting Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso, San Antonio and Houston. In the next four years, the state will focus on constructing charging locations in rural areas and in every county across Texas.
Urban areas of the state, particularly in North Texas, are already home to hundreds of public charging stations, said Lori Clark, an air quality manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. That doesn’t include private charging stations owned by Tesla or plugs available at people’s homes and apartment complexes.
“We know the (state plan) is not going to be enough, but there’s also private investment happening parallel to that constantly,” Clark said. “I don’t want to say there’s not work to do, but I don’t think the challenge is quite as insurmountable as some people may think.”
The North Texas region is home to 53,283 registered electric vehicles as of Oct. 4, accounting for 35.6% of the state’s 151,000 vehicles, according to data collected by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Dallas-Fort Worth leads every other region in pure numbers of electric vehicles, ahead of Houston and Austin.
What’s the difference between a Level 2 and a DC fast charger?
Per ChargePoint: “Some home chargers and most public charging stations are ‘Level 2.’ Level 2 charging stations are ideal for times when you’ll be parked for at least an hour, such as at work or restaurants … Level 2 charging will generally give you enough juice to get around town.”
“On long trips or when you’re pressed for time, you’ll
probably want a faster charge. DC fast charging can deliver 100 (range per hour) or more,
charging some EVs to 80 percent in 20-30 minutes.”
With 10,719 registered electric vehicles, Tarrant County ranks sixth statewide behind Travis, Harris, Dallas, Collin and Bexar counties. Excluding stations that only serve Tesla vehicles, Tarrant has 313 publicly available level two plugs and 28 DC fast charge plugs – the highest number of fast charge plugs in the North Texas region.
After a slow climb over the past five years as technology improved and more models came on the market, there’s a sharp upward curve in electric vehicle purchases, Smith said. Since September 2021, the number of registered vehicles in Texas has risen by 58,000, according to the most recent count by the council of governments.
Trucking and delivery fleets stand to see the most long-term cost savings by switching from diesel to electric, which also reduces the amount of emissions from vehicles and the refineries that produce diesel, Smith said.
“Electric vehicle sales in Texas more than doubled in the last year, as have the raw number of electric vehicles (on the road),” Smith said. “The costs are coming down dramatically and the range is increasing. As a result now, many people can see an electric vehicle in their future.”
She and other council leaders were in close contact with TxDOT as they developed the charging plan and identified two-mile zones that are ideal for installing stations. A TxDOT spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Clark expects to be involved in the next steps of the process, which will include identifying sites and hosts who will oversee maintenance of the stations. The federal infrastructure law requires states to contract with private property owners rather than purchase the land necessary for charging stations.
Most of the planned DC fast-charging stations set for North Texas are located outside of Tarrant County, according to early TxDOT maps. Denton, Dallas and Denton counties will receive stations, while Tarrant, Hood, Johnson, and Wise counties include “study areas” for future charging locations.
Looking for a charging station?
If you own a Tesla, the company provides a Trip Planner and map of Superchargers so you can navigate to a charging station.
On the rare occasion that Angela Hall drives her electric hybrid Chevy Volt outside of the Fort Worth area, she hasn’t had to worry about finding an accessible charger because of the ability to use the gas tank. Her electric engine has a range of just under 45 miles, which works for her work-from-home lifestyle, but she has to pump gas for a hassle-free trip to West Texas.
“Most of the time when we’re traveling, we don’t have to worry or make our plans around charging because we have the Volt,” Hall said. “I do presume that our next vehicle will be a fully electric vehicle. I’m hoping that, by that time, it won’t be as big of an issue because there’ll be so many more options along the way.”
After more charging locations are available for drivers like Hall, the next frontier will be installing more signage on highways to advertise them – just as the state does for gas stations and restaurants on exit signs, Clark said.
That shift would significantly increase the visibility of electric vehicles, she added.
“If there are federal funds invested in these charging stations, should those signs not also encompass any fuel?” she said. “We’ll see what kind of changes they make to (signage) because of this type of infrastructure program.”
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