As electric vehicles gain popularity, Austin also needs charging stations

As gasoline prices in Texas hit their highest in seven years and the appeal of electric vehicles reaches a wider range of drivers, the public and private sectors are rushing to build networks of charging stations. for electric vehicles. And they’re looking to Washington where a bipartisan infrastructure deal could add 500,000 charging stations in the United States by 2030.

The number of charging stations “has tracked the number of new vehicles sold in general,” said Norman Hajjar, executive at data company EV PlugShare. But he warned of “pinch points” that could arise if the charging infrastructure fails to keep up with demand.

“We’re going to see a huge mushroom of new electric vehicles over the next 10 years, so this is where the rubber has to meet the road,” Hajjar said.

The Austin area has nearly 700 electric vehicle charging locations right now, according to PlugShare. Almost all locations have multiple charging stations.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

ChargePoint manages the largest network of charging stations in the United States

Austin Energy operates 300 of these charging points – a total of 1,200 charging stations in total – and the utility adds about 200 additional charging stations per year. ChargePoint, which operates the country’s largest network of charging stations, is working to add charging infrastructure to more than 4,000 travel spots and gas stations in rural communities across the country by the end of the year. decade.

By then, electric vehicles will account for 29% of all vehicles sold, according to estimates by energy research provider BloombergNEF.

Americans are increasingly drawn to electric vehicles as automakers expand their offerings at various price points and consumers discover the enhanced driving experience: instant power and quick acceleration, smoother driving, smoother driving, quieter cab and lower cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle.

The 2021 Mini Cooper SE starts at $ 30,750 before a federal tax credit of $ 7,500. The 2021 Nissan Leaf comes in at $ 32,620 before the same tax credit. Ford has announced that the base model of its all-electric F-150 Lightning will cost less than $ 40,000 when it goes on sale in early 2022.

“I think based on the scope and capabilities of the Ford F-150 Lighting and its price, we could see another doubling of EV sales in Austin… almost overnight,” said Karl Popham, which manages the electric vehicle infrastructure for Austin Energy. . He said this has not happened since the release of the Tesla Model 3.

Austin Energy estimates that there will be over 52,000 electric vehicles in Austin by 2023. Currently, more than 15,000 plug-in hybrid and rechargeable battery electric vehicles are registered in Travis and Williamson counties and 300 more are added each month, according to Electric Power Research. Institute data provided to Austin Energy. The public service offers a VE buying guide that verifies real-time inventory at local dealerships.

Details of a bipartite federal infrastructure agreement are still being worked out, but a frame of the deal released by the White House includes $ 7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure. That’s enough, according to the White House, to build 500,000 stations across the country – 10 times the number that exist today.

But most electric vehicle charging is done at home. Austin Energy offers its customers a 50% off on the cost of purchasing and installing a level 2 charging station, which can recharge a battery in a few hours. The rebate is capped at $ 1,200.

DC fast chargers, more commonly found in public charging stations, can recharge a battery to 80% in as little as 15 minutes. Last year, Austin Energy installed eight DC fast chargers on a stretch of Second Street in the Seaholm district and renamed the block Electric drive.

Electric Drive in downtown Austin has DC fast-charging stations where people can charge their electric vehicles.

Gabriel C. Perez / KUT

Electric Drive in downtown Austin has DC fast-charging stations where people can charge their electric vehicles relatively quickly.

Persistent questions about EV charging infrastructure remain, such as the strain it could place on power grids during peak hours, especially in a state still recovering from an unprecedented blackout. which has left millions of people without electricity. Governor Greg Abbott has just called a special legislative session and has left network resilience off the agenda.

But electric vehicles could actually help stabilize the grid, researchers say, if utilities could purchase electricity from plugged-in vehicles when generators struggle to keep up with demand. A recent pilot project in the UK involving the Nissan Leaf find such “vehicle to grid” charging systems could reduce the need for electricity generation, reduce carbon emissions and save vehicle owners money.

Electric vehicles could even save the lives of their owners by serving as home backup batteries during prolonged power outages, according to a investigation electric vehicle research and pilot projects from Rocky Mountain Institute’s Electricity Innovation Lab. Ford is promising such a home backup power capability in its F-150 Lightning.

“A car with a 30 kWh battery stores as much electricity as an average American residence consumes in a day,” says the Electricity Innovation Lab report.

Interest in electric vehicles increases whenever gasoline prices soar. The Texas average for a gallon of regular hit a seven-year high this week, according to a gas station survey by AAA Texas. Rising oil prices report that more expensive gasoline is around the corner as people hit the road for summer vacation after more than a year spent in hiding from a killer virus that is wreaking havoc around the world.

Do you have any advice? Email Nathan Bernier at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @KUTnathan.

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