Transportation is the leading source of carbon pollution in the U.S., and light-duty vehicles – including cars, pickups and SUVs – are the biggest contributors to the problem. Three strategies – getting more Texans into electric vehicles, electrifying and improving our transit system, and getting more people moving by foot, bike and transit – can put the U.S. on a path to a zero-carbon transportation system. This post focuses on the first strategy – electric vehicles – and explains both why and how Texas should support their growth.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are ready to deliver a future of clean transportation.
Technological gains that allow electric vehicles to drive farther, charge faster, and be produced more affordably are revolutionizing the vehicle market. There are currently over 50 models on the market and an electric Ford F150 and other electric pickup trucks are coming soon. Over 1 million battery-powered and plug-in hybrid EVs have already been sold in the U.S.
According to a December 2020 survey by Consumer Reports, 71% of Americans are interested in getting an electric vehicle in the future and 31% “said they would consider getting an EV for their next lease or purchase.” GM, Ford, Jaguar and Volvo have committed to all-electric fleets no later than 2035.
EVs are clean
Texas’ transportation sector produces as much carbon pollution as the economy-wide emissions of Vietnam, Argentina and the Netherlands. Pollution from cars and trucks is also a major contributor to the smog and soot problem in our cities, which triggers asthma and heart attacks and other health problems. EVs are emission-free. With Texas’ current electricity mix, EVs emit as much pollution as a gas-powered car getting between 68 – 89 miles per gallon. As our grid gets increasingly cleaner, EVs will become even better for the environment and public health.
EVs are increasingly affordable
Affordable electric vehicles are hitting the road in increasing numbers. The 2020 Chevy Bolt retails at as low as $25,000, the 2020 Nissan Leaf as low as $28,000, and the Chrysler Pacifica minivan around $44,000. There’s also a thriving market for used EVs, with a number of models available for less than $15,000.
As the result of low fuel and maintenance costs, EVs are typically cheaper to own than conventional vehicles over the vehicle’s lifetime. Electric vehicles have fewer parts since they don’t have an engine, making them easier and cheaper to maintain. On average it costs about half as much to fuel an EV. There are also financial incentives available like the Federal Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit of up to $7,500. Texans are also eligible for a $2500 rebate when purchasing an EV. Check out our FAQ on buying an electric vehicle.
Texas needs to develop charging infrastructure
Texas currently ranks fifth in electric vehicle sales through 2020, but our current charging infrastructure is insufficient to sustain mass EV adoption. Consumers will only feel comfortable adopting EVs if they are confident that they will be able to recharge them when needed. While most recharging takes place at home, EV owners will also need places to recharge their vehicles in public.
The experience of charging an EV has a long way to go to match the convenience of refueling a gasoline-powered car – especially when it comes to public charging infrastructure. Not only does Texas not have enough EV chargers, but the chargers that do exist are rarely as easy to find and use as pumps at gas stations. While around 80 percent of public charging stations included in a Department of Energy database are open 24 hours a day, only 53 percent are open all day without restrictions. Learn how Texas can improve EV charging.
Texas needs to allow Texans to power their homes with EVs
EVs are essentially batteries on wheels. You can store energy in those batteries, and if EVs are equipped with something called vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-home technology, they can also be used to keep the lights on in emergencies. The technology allows the energy being stored in an EV battery to be pushed back into the grid or into buildings to provide power. The Public Utility Commission should require utilities to have a low-cost, quick-permitting process that allows households to allow for a bidirectional connection with the EV to the grid.
Local governments can lead the way
Local governments have a big role to play in helping their residents adopt electric vehicles. In Texas and around the country, cities and towns are using a series of tools to accelerate the deployment of electric transportation on our roads. Check out our recommendations for cities.
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.