Mar 3, 2022 - Business

Expanding electric vehicle charging stations in Texas

Data: U.S. Department of Energy; Map: Axios Visuals

The Biden administration recently kicked off a $5 billion program to expand electric vehicle charging networks nationwide.

Zoom in: That investment has the potential to help address barriers to EV purchases in Texas, which could receive as much as $400 million for projects directly related to electric vehicle charging.

Why it matters: The city of Austin set an ambitious goal of having electric vehicles contribute 40% of all vehicle miles logged by 2030.

  • Making that leap will require jumping from the roughly 1,500 public stations currently in Austin to 37,000 stations overall.
  • Austin had only about 100 stations a decade ago.

The big picture: Texas has at least 52,000 registered electric vehicles — and that number is just going to go up.

How it works: About 85% of electric vehicle charging happens at home, but the stations are crucial for getting around town or across the country.

  • At most stations throughout Austin, drivers plug in their cars for about four hours to get them juiced.
  • But there are currently around 150 fast stations in Austin, mostly set up by Tesla, that will "fill up" your vehicle in just 18 minutes.

What they're saying: "People are used to the gas station model," Karl Popham, who leads the EV and emerging technologies group at Austin Energy, tells Axios.

  • "You pull off the road for five minutes, get some food, stretch your legs, go on. With electric vehicle charging, it's more like a mobile phone — you plug it in, you go to sleep, you wake up, you unplug it," Popham added.

Even as Austin routinely gets high marks for its electric infrastructure, Texas often gets poor grades.

Yes, but: A new state law eases regulations on the owners and operators of charging stations — and could spur the construction of new charging stations.

News you can (maybe) use: Austin Energy budgets $400,000 annually on charging station rebates — including upgrades to home outlets. Asked if these amounted to subsidies for the rich, Popham pointed to other EV programs Austin Energy supports aimed at low-income residents, such as a partnership with Cap Metro to encourage electric bike use to and from city bus stops.

  • The city also organizes a buyers guide for used electric vehicles.

Of note: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be in Austin for SXSW, and you can bet he'll talk about electric vehicles.

  • States will have the ultimate say in where the new infrastructure should be, Buttigieg has told Axios.
  • Where charging stations are placed will be up to each governor's leadership, he said. "We're not going to sit in Washington and pick and choose and command and control where all the dollars go."

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