Report: 40,000 electric cars could be on San Antonio roads by 2030

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Local policies, state funds can help city prepare for electric car revolution

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

SAN ANTONIO With an estimated 40,000 electric vehicles (EVs) hitting San Antonio streets by 2030, a new study by Environment Texas, TexPIRG and Frontier Group notes the Alamo City could need 1,340 new charging stations to make sure these new EVs have enough places to park and recharge. The groups pointed to funds available from the VW settlement and the Legislature as great opportunities to help fund new electric charging infrastructure and electric buses.

“Electric cars are popular and they’re coming,” stated Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. “We have an opportunity to make a positive change after more than a century of vehicles spewing pollutants into the air. Local and state officials who want to plug into this opportunity need to commit to an EV-friendly infrastructure as smooth and fast as possible.”

EV sales nationwide increased 38% in 2016, and then another 32% throughout 2017, as charging stations became more convenient. Those electric car purchases reflect Americans’ values, including a desire to protect our communities’ public health, reduce global warming pollution and stop using so much oil.

Even the change-resistant auto industry recognizes that the future is electric. GM plans to launch 20 EV models by 2023, while Ford announced last month it plans to invest $11 billion in EVs, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022. These new cars don’t just check off the “electric” box; they’re earning acclaim from mainstream car enthusiasts. Motor Trend even named Chevrolet’s Bolt the 2017 Car of the Year.

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center’s Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles report estimates that San Antonio could possibly see 40,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. The report finds that San Antonio may need 1,454 “L2” chargers and 62 fast chargers by 2030 to meet this demand. Level 2 chargers can add 50 miles of range to electric vehicle in 2 to 4 hours and are appropriate for charging while shopping or at work. Fast chargers, known as DCFC (for direct current fast charge), can add 100 miles of range or more in an hour of charging. San Antonio currently has 176 L2 chargers and no fast chargers.

But with more electric vehicles on the road, and many more coming soon, cities need to map out where EVs will charge, particularly in city centers and neighborhoods without off-street parking. In all, major cities will need to install hundreds to thousands of new publicly-accessible electric vehicle chargers to keep the increased number of EVs running, depending on the size of the city.

“This report could not have come at a better time,” declared District 7 City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval. “With the ongoing development of the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, this is a perfect time to lay the groundwork for expanded access to electric vehicle charging. The sooner we accomplish that, the sooner we will all breathe easier.”

In particular, the report calls on local officials to implement the following EV-friendly policies:

  • Residential access to on-street EV charging
  • Access to public charging stations
  • Support for private investment in publicly-accessible stations
  • Incentivized EV parking and charging

“American cities risk being unprepared for the impending arrival of thousands of electric vehicles on their streets,” said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of “Plugging In.” “Without forward-thinking policies that give EV owners places to park and charge their vehicles, cities could lose out on the health and air quality benefits that electric vehicles can deliver,” Miller said.

The report’s authors note that local and state officials increasingly are having to lead on issues related to climate change, clean energy, and clean cars, as the Trump administration dismantles federal policies that offered concrete solutions to these issues. In the coming weeks, the administration is expected to propose new steps towards revoking federal fuel efficiency standards and weakening clean car policies.

On the other hand, the pending distribution of $209 million in Texas from the Volkswagen scandal settlement, provides a great opportunity to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric buses. In addition, in 2017, the Legislature reauthorized a $2500 rebate to help Texans buy electric cars.

“It’s critical that we get the charging infrastructure in place now to be able to handle this wave of new vehicles,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, interim director of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA). “Using the VW settlement to pay for charging facilities is a great opportunity. These funds could be used as seed money to create a buying pool large enough to convince Texas car and truck manufacturers to build these new vehicles in Texas and create jobs, while reducing pollution.”

“Adopting smart public policies, which have been implemented already in visionary American and international cities, can help more U.S. cities lead the electric vehicle revolution,” noted Metzger.  “For the sake of our public health and environment, it’s crucial that we expand access to clean transportation for those who live, work and play in our urban centers. And once we complete the transition away from gasoline and diesel, we can all breathe easier and see more clearly.”