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Texas legislature mostly hands wins to the state’s electric vehicle industry

 The Texas State Capitol in Austin.
The Texas State Capitol in Austin.

The Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance’s president said the legislation passed in the most recent session represented movement in the right direction as EV ownership expands in Texas.

The Texas legislature handed a number of wins to the growing electric vehicle industry in the state this past legislative session, despite failing to pass some industry-supported bills and passing a bill the industry opposed.

There are expected to be more than 1 million EVs in Texas between 2028 and 2031, according to estimates from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and state legislative action could influence how quickly EVs spread through the state.

Tom Smith is the president of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA), which supports the EV industry in Texas. He said overall the legislation passed in the most recent session was positive for the EV industry, and pointed to some specific successes.

“Senate Bill 1002, that will enable electric vehicle companies to get the electric infrastructure they need — the switch boxes and the transformers — in place to enable them to plug in their charging stations,” Smith said. “And in addition, some legislation was put into place, Senate Bill 1001, that basically says these electric vehicle chargers ought to be inspected in the same way we inspect gas pumps.”

Thanks to Senate Bill 1732, any charging stations that were funded with federal or state dollars will be required to offer adapters for the different charging ports different vehicle brands use. Smith said publicly funded charging stations are few and far in between, but that the law would influence the privately funded charging stations too.

“This … will set a market standard and an expectation that you’ll be able to charge whatever brand of car you have at any charging station,” Smith said.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1364, will increase the vehicle weight limit for EVs and other non-combustion vehicles on state highways. That’s important for the EV market’s expansion into buses and large trucks because EVs are much heavier than traditional combustion-engine vehicles.

Ryan Poppe
TPR News

Smith said EVs were the future of the auto industry, even in an oil and gas state like Texas.

“People are looking at the electric vehicle and saying, ‘This is a lot cheaper to drive, it’s a lot cheaper to own,’ and it’s more fun to drive because it handles better, accelerates better, and has all this really cool new technology,” he said.

But it wasn’t all good news for Smith and TxETRA. The legislature failed to pass several TxETRA-supported bills, including one that would have allowed renters to pay to install charging stations in their own reserved parking spaces and another that would have required multiple state agencies to coordinate plans to support the continued development of EVs.

The legislature also passed Senate Bill 505, which set a new flat fee to register EVs every year. The reasoning for the bill was that drivers of combustion-engine vehicles support the state’s roads through gas taxes, but EV drivers don’t contribute to gas tax revenue.

TxETRA had proposed an alternative piece of legislation, House Bill 3418, as an EV version of the gas tax. HB 3418 would have established a pilot program that charged EV drivers a fee that corresponded with how many miles they traveled, like how the gas tax functions, rather than the flat registration fee the legislature ended up passing.

Smith said the positive direction of legislation for the EV industry was a result of the shifting views about the technology.

“It’s not Republican and Democrat anymore,” Smith said. “It’s common sense and lower cost.”

He added that TxETRA is already beginning to prepare for the next legislative session in 2025, where it aims to give EV owners the ability to use their car batteries to power their homes when electric grid demand is high and finding ways to lower the cost for EV school buses and ease interstate travel for large EV trucks.

Copyright 2023 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Josh Peck