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New Texas Laws Aimed at Rise in Electric Vehicle Ownership

The state has federal money for EV projects, and various state agencies will play a role.

Electric Car
Texas lags other states in adopting electric vehicles (EVs) and lacks essential charging stations needed to keep the electric engines powered.

But as Tesla, Ford and Rivian increase mass production of electric vehicles, lawmakers are trying to lay the groundwork for easier adoption.

In the Legislature’s regular session that ended May 29, EV advocates successfully nudged several bills to passage.

“When you look at reasons people don’t buy electric vehicles, No. 1 is cost, and that’s changing rapidly” and decreasing, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, executive director of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, and an electric vehicle owner. “The No. 2 [reason] is charging access or range anxiety.”

The number of gas stations in Texas dwarfs the number of available chargers. There are more than 12,000 devices — or pumps — in the Lone Star State from which one can fuel up a gas-powered car. Meanwhile, there are only about 2,900 charging stations in Texas.

There are about 18.7 charging stations per 100,000 residents, putting Texas 36th among states, according to data by the software company CoPilot. Vermont and California rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, and the top 10 states have at least 55 charging stations per 100,000 residents.

But new laws signed by Gov. Greg Abbott will help fast-track development of more charging stations as electric vehicle ownership increases.

One law — Senate Bill 1001 — also increases transparency by displaying the cost to use a charger before charging and creates a process for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) to inspect the chargers — similar to how it inspects gas stations.

Another — Senate Bill 1002 — ensures that utility companies can’t undercut private retailers and other businesses that offer charging stations by offering charging at a lower rate. Advocates say the measure is vital to building out a network of charging stations.

There are more than 202,800 electric vehicles registered in Texas, according to Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) data compiled by the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition. As of 2021, there were more than 20 million gasoline-powered vehicles registered in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The federal government under President Joe Biden has hoped to incentivize purchasing electric vehicles, which are seen as a cleaner fuel source that will cut down on emissions. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 gave Texas $400 million in federal funds. The state has said it plans to use that money to build more than 50 new charging stations along state highways.

TxDOT aims to have a charging station every 50 to 70 miles, according to a plan released in 2022, and will award contracts to build those stations. No contracts have been awarded yet, a department spokesman said. The plan does not set a time frame for completing the stations.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.