Electric Driving in an Oil State

Reader Contribution by Haden Kirkpatrick and Esurance
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States like Texas are famous for their connection to the oil industry, but that doesn’t mean that driving an electric vehicle (EV) is out of the question. As the market for electric vehicles grows larger, states that would traditionally resist giving up petroleum are being forced to adapt.

In fact, Texas has become one of the better states for electric cars ownership, with favorable tax incentives, increased charging station availability and local governments that are investing in the electric infrastructure needed for a greener future. Here’s how one of the biggest oil states in the U.S. is rethinking driving — and what other states are doing to follow suit.

Tax Incentives

Typically, electric cars are more expensive than your standard internal combustion vehicle, especially when you compare the features and niceties inside. The federal government offers a hefty $7,500 tax credit to help lower the price tag, but Texas goes even further. In June of 2018, Texas reinstated their $2,500 state tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle after a three-year hiatus from offering this credit. This is great news for Texans who want to drive green, as tax incentives are critical for making EVs and hybrids accessible to the average consumer.  

In addition to the tax rebate, the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Vehicle Replacement Program from the Texas Department of Environmental Quality will give a further rebate of up to $3,500 for trading in for a more efficient vehicle, especially EVs and hybrids. However, the requirements for this program are a bit more stringent. You must be in a low-income bracket and your current vehicle must meet certain requirements for inefficiency. It’s also only available to residents in certain parts of the state. 

Charging Station Availability

Texas is a big place, but there are already 960 charging stations across the state, allowing EV drivers to make it almost anywhere without running out of juice. Most of these charging stations are located in urban areas, but some are placed along highways that run through the state. 

Additionally, the federal government has designated several interstate highways to be “Interstate Charging Corridors,” including Interstates 10, 20, 30, 35 and 45. This is backed up by $4.5 billion in guaranteed loans from the government to companies building EV charging stations – part of an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 80 percent by 2050. 

Austin: A Haven for EVs

The capital of Texas has gone all-in on making the switch to electric-powered transportation. The local power service, Austin Energy, offers EV owners a rebate to help install a fast-charging station (up to $1,200) at home, even if they live in an apartment building. Apartment buildings and condo complexes make it notoriously hard to own an EV, but if you have a designated parking spot or garage, you may qualify for the rebate. Austin will also help apartment and condo buildings install charging stations with rebates, as well as lend support for maintenance and marketing the high-demand amenity. 

EV owners can also take advantage of Austin Energy’s EV360 pilot program, which offers unlimited charging at home between 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. for a flat $30/month fee (if you qualify). The program also offers unlimited access to Austin Energy charging stations throughout the city for $4.17/month. And even better news for green drivers — Austin Energy also says that charging your car during off-peak hours will use 100 percent renewable energy.

EV Ownership in Other Oil States

Texas isn’t the only oil state with an EV-friendly environment. California is also a major oil producer, and also an EV-friendly state. California offers a staggering tax credit of up to $7,000, which nearly matches that of the Federal government. There are also HOV lane permissions, utility incentives, local jurisdiction rebates and discounts, as well as plenty of electric vehicle charging stations to go around. Other big oil producers like Oklahoma, Alaska and North Dakota have yet to equal Texas and California’s EV initiatives, but the times are certainly changing. The more states that follow Texas’s example, the easier it’ll be to own an EV almost anywhere in the U.S. 

Haden Kirkpatrick is the head of marketing strategy and innovation at Esurance. He is constantly thinking about how IoT, blockchain and machine learning will impact the auto insurance industry.

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