Apr 4 2014, 4:58pm CDT | by Forbes
Selling electric vehicles (EVs) in oil-rich Texas is comparable to Nixon going to China, and the effort thus far has had similarly unexpected but successful results. Cars that do not use gas are proving surprisingly popular in the Lone Star State, and one of the main drivers for EVs has nothing to do with the cars themselves.
Navigant Research’s Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts report estimates that Texas has around 5,000 registered EVs currently and that this number will grow to nearly 100,000 by 2023. While the well-to-do from Texas’ oil & gas industry can afford the higher price of an EV, the state’s utility structure is playing a major role in supporting EV sales.
As a deregulated state, Texas allows utilities to directly participate in EV charging, which provides a new revenue stream for power distribution companies that, in other states, are focused on reducing load through energy efficiency measures. Because they can (and because it increases their profits), utilities NRG, Austin Energy, and CPS Energy have all begun installing EV charging stations across the state. A visible, reliable network of charging stations is essential to increasing consumers’ confidence that they won’t have to worry about getting stranded with a dwindling battery while about town.
Among the Drillers
CPS Energy’s network of charging stations helps to prevent the state from running afoul of federal air quality laws. NRG’s eVgo network has several subscription options to reduce the cost of home and public charging. Nissan LEAF drivers in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas also have access to free charging thanks to Nissan, which is subsidizing the NRG eVgo network in an attempt to bolster vehicle sales. Another EV charging network growing in Texas is Tesla Motors’ SuperCharger network, which encircles the Dallas, Austin, and Houston areas.
Power providers in Texas are also interested in promoting EVs because the vehicles can help offset the variability of the vast wind resources being installed across the state, which will make it one of the largest producers in the world. Texas’ grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is working with the Southwest Research Institute to demonstrate using EVs to counterbalance wind energy production in the state.
Austin Energy has made the smart decision to use only renewable energy from wind and solar to power its charging stations. This negates the argument that EVs merely transfer emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack of a power plant. The city of Austin now has nearly 1,000 EVs, according to the Austin American Statesman.
Texas is also under consideration as a location for Tesla Motors’ proposed Gigafactory, which could produce batteries for hundreds of thousands of EVs. If that happens, we’ll see even more gasless cars roaming between the oil & gas wells in Texas.
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