Report: Houston will have 65,000 electric cars by 2030

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Brian Zabcik

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

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

HOUSTON — The number of electric vehicles (EVs) in Houston is projected to increase to 65,000 by 2030, according to a new report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. But these vehicles won’t have enough places to recharge their batteries unless the city adds more than 2,000 new charging stations in publicly accessible locations. However, funds from the Volkswagen emissions settlement and from the Texas Legislature offer excellent opportunities to pay for new EVs and new charging infrastructure.

“After more than a century of high-emission gas and diesel vehicles, we have a golden opportunity to clean up the air we breathe by switching to zero-emission electric vehicles,” said Brian Zabcik, Clean Air & Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “Local officials can plug into this opportunity by making sure that EV-friendly infrastructure is put in place quickly and smoothly.”

The Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report, Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles, was co-produced with TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The report recommends that cities 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

“Electric cars aren’t the future — they’re already here, and they work,” said Kevin Douglass, president of the Houston Electric Auto Association. “As more people learn about them, they will enjoy owning and driving them.” HEAA promotes the use of EVs by disseminating information about electric cars and their infrastructure, and about the benefits of powering them with renewable energy sources.

EV sales nationwide increased 38% in 2016, and then another 32% throughout 2017. GM plans to launch 20 EV models by 2025, while Ford announced last month it plans to invest $11 billion in EVs, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022.

“EVs are poised to play an important role as catalysts for the decarbonization of the global economy,” said Dominic Boyer, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences at Rice University. “The transportation sector is responsible for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and 95% of that comes from fossil fuels. The good news is that we already have technologies ready to go that can help to radically reduce those emissions. So it isn’t that surprising that we’re now seeing action — both at the governmental level and from certain companies — to begin the phase-out of internal combustion engines.”

The “Plugging In” report estimates that Houston could potentially see 65,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. But with more EVs in the streets, the city will need to map out where these vehicles will charge, particularly in downtown areas and in neighborhoods with limited off-street parking.

According to the “Plugging In” report, Houston currently has 268 Level 2 chargers and 29 fast chargers. Level 2 chargers can add 50 miles of range to an EV in 2–4 hours, and are appropriate for charging while shopping or working. Fast chargers (also known as DCFC, for “direct current fast charge”), can add 100 miles of range or more in an hour of charging. By 2030, Houston will need a total of at least 2,300 Level 2 chargers and 100 fast chargers, the Environment Texas report states.

“EV sales are exploding, and it’s no wonder why — electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions, plus they have a much lower carbon footprint and require much less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars,” said Stephanie Thomas, researcher and organizer with Public Citizen. “Given the rise of the electric automobile, Houston needs to develop a robust charging infrastructure network, which can be funded in part through the Volkswagen settlement and grants from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.”

The authors of the “Plugging In” report note that local and state officials increasingly are having to lead on issues related to climate change, clean energy, and clean cars, because the Trump administration has been dismantling federal policies that previously offered concrete solutions to these issues. The administration is expected to propose new steps in the coming weeks towards revoking federal fuel efficiency standards and weakening clean car policies.

On the other hand, the pending distribution in Texas of $209 million from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement will help fund EV charging infrastructure and electric buses. In addition, last year the Texas Legislature reauthorized a $2,500 rebate to help Texans buy electric cars.

Environment Texas advocates for clean air, clean water, and preservation of Texas’ natural areas on behalf of 35,000 members and online activists statewide.