Luke and Rachel Hunt’s electric vehicle journey began with a simple fact: The solar panels on their house in unincorporated Johnson County were producing more electricity than they could use. With gas prices rising in early 2022, the couple considered buying a used 2018 Fiat 500 electric vehicle. 

“We jumped in with both feet shortly thereafter. Within the span of 14 months, we bought three,” Luke Hunt said. “We charge three electric vehicles off the solar panels on a daily basis, and the electricity company pays us.”

The Hunts, who now run a YouTube channel documenting road trips they’ve taken in their 2022 Chevy Bolt, were among dozens of electric vehicle enthusiasts who brought their cars to a National Drive Electric Week event at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth Oct. 1. 

For the past decade, the North Central Texas Council of Governments has hosted the annual event with EV owners and dealerships in Grapevine and Dallas. This year, the council and its DFW Clean Cities initiative sought to reach a new audience by coming to Fort Worth for the first time, spokesperson Kenny Bergstrom said. 

The built-in audience from the nearby mall and Buc-ee’s, which features charging stations, was part of the appeal, Bergstrom said. 

Visitors learn more about electric vehicle policies in North Texas during a National Drive Electric Week event at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth on Oct. 1, 2023. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

“We’re hoping to get a lot of crossover traffic — people that have heard of electric cars but have never been up close in person with one and they’ve never done a test drive with one,” he said. “Our goal is to get them inside and sit down and talk to actual owners, people that have had them for years and can go over the misconceptions that people have heard about.” 

Because North Texas is failing to meet federal air quality standards, the council of governments is tasked with developing strategies to reduce ozone levels harmful to human health. Electric vehicles emit less pollution than gas-powered cars. Bergstrom’s organization helps educate residents about the financial and environmental benefits of transitioning to electric. 

As the federal government invests millions into expanding the country’s charging network, demand for electric vehicles in Texas has rapidly increased over the past year. The number of electric vehicles registered with the state grew from 140,014 in August 2022 to 218,889 this August — a 56% increase.

Dallas-Fort Worth had the largest increase out of any major metro area in Texas, with registrations rising by 63% between 2022 and 2023. Kaufman, Collin and Denton counties saw the steepest increases, but Tarrant County wasn’t far behind. 

The county reported a 56% growth spurt, increasing from 9,986 vehicles to 15,555 this year. Home to wealthy suburbs such as Colleyville, Grapevine and Southlake, northeast Tarrant County reported the highest concentrations of electric vehicles, while the southeastern portion of the county reported the lowest, according to a North Central Texas Council of Governments map.

With the popularity of electric vehicles still in its infancy, North Texas electric vehicle owners say they receive a mixture of curiosity and skepticism from people inquiring about their cars. 

Jonathan Davis drove his Tesla Y from Springtown for the National Drive Electric Week event at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth on Oct. 1. While Davis loves the car, he says electric vehicles can require more tire replacement and, at times, longer waits for service at Tesla dealerships. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

When Jonathan Davis is charging his Tesla Y model, the first question he hears is about the car’s range, or how many miles the vehicle can travel before it needs a charge. Tesla offers estimates of when the car needs to be charged and how long the driver will need to stay at a particular destination, he said. 

“Then they say: ‘Well, what about the time it takes to get from point A to point B on a longer trip?’ It’s actually been very beneficial, because it gets me out of the car,” Davis, who lives in Springtown, said. “If I drove 150 miles in a gas car, I’ll usually drive 300 because I can, and it’s not necessarily a good thing, because it’s when you get tired. It forces you to take a break.” 

Events like the Tanger Outlets show allow visitors to get answers about what it’s like to own an electric vehicle — the good and the bad — from real people rather than just an auto dealership, Davis said. Autobahn Fort Worth staff were on site to offer test drives and information on their models. 

The National Drive Electric Week event at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth was valuable to enthusiasts like Sameer Dharmadhikari, who sought to be around like-minded people. He test-drove an electric bike and showed off his Rivian SUV. “This is the stuff people dreamt of 10 years ago, right? And it’s out here,” he said. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

Electric vehicle enthusiasts also have questions of their own about a new state law charging owners an annual $200 fee per vehicle. The new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, aims to make up for lost gasoline tax revenues used to pay for road maintenance and construction. Owners like the Hunts say the fee should be based on mileage rather than a flat fee.

“We’re having to pay a higher tax than the gasoline tax would be,” Luke Hunt said. “But even with that, the car is still way cheaper to drive. It’s still saving me money, and I don’t mind paying our fair share. They’re just making us pay more than our fair share.” 

What incentives are available?

Federal incentives include a $7,500 nonrefundable tax credit for purchasing a qualified electric car and up to $4,000 for buying a qualified used electric car. Consumers who purchase charging infrastructure between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2032, can receive a tax credit of up to $1,000. 

The state provides a $2,500 rebate to individuals who purchase or lease a new electric car. Local governments may also offer incentives. Check the North Central Texas Council of Governments website for more information.

Despite the new fees and political pushback against electric vehicle expansion, consumer interest hasn’t shown signs of fading.

Joshua Tisue, who stopped by the event after shopping with his mom, Lisa, remembers pushback from his parents as he deliberated whether to buy a Tesla. His dad was concerned about the environmental impact from the disposal of lithium batteries used in Tesla vehicles. 

“It seems like that’s just a myth about it,” Joshua Tisue, who lives in Fort Worth, said. “Pretty much everybody thinks that way until they really look a little bit deeper into it.” 

Once Tisue test-drove a Tesla model and learned about the lower maintenance requirements for electric cars, he was sold. His mother is also considering buying a Tesla, though she’s waiting until her Honda Pilot is out of commission.

“He loves all electric cars, so he’s trying to talk me into buying one. Once I got into the research of it, then electric vehicles are great,” Lisa Tisue said. “Tesla is probably the best of the best, but they don’t really have an SUV that I really want to drive — yet.” 

Electric car enthusiasts and shoppers, including Lisa and Joshua Tisue, right, talk to vendors and car owners during a National Drive Electric Week event at Tanger Outlets Fort Worth on Oct. 1. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org.

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Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...