PORT LAVACA — Electric vehicles are charging forward in the Crossroads, and the idea of owning one is beginning to seem less far fetched in rural communities than ever before.
As major vehicle companies commit further to fully-electric vehicles, local dealerships and car buyers are making the transition to normalizing electric vehicles. While the connotation between high-income buyers and electric vehicles still exists, more research and effort is being placed into how to extend access past high-income early adopters. Therefore, a larger market for the new vehicles could be present in the Crossroads further down the road.
“Electric vehicles have not reached economies of scale like gasoline vehicles,” said Eleftheria Kontou, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Urbana-Champaign. “Still, of course, there is a need to better invest in low-income and disadvantaged communities.”
One self-proclaimed “evangelist” of electric vehicles has taken to the relatively new technology across the Crossroads.
Built Ford electric
John Griffin has owned four electric vehicles including two Chevrolet Volts, a Chevrolet Bolt and most recently, a Ford Mustang Mach-E, California Route 1 model.
When he bought his first electric vehicle in 2011, there were almost no places for him to refuel, he said. Ten years later, he said there are many more public charging places, and he has installed more at his house in Victoria, his office and his mother’s house in Port Lavaca.
As local dealerships begin carrying more electric vehicles, Griffin said he is happy to make his purchases local, like the Mach-E he bought from Port Lavaca Ford.
Among the ranks of well-known Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers, is Ford.
The longtime manufacturer of combustion engines announced a plan in February to increase investment in electric vehicle technology by $22 billion through 2026, according to Ford press releases. An all-electric F-150 truck is set to be launched in 2022 with five orders at Port Lavaca Ford, 1801 SH 35, Port Lavaca, and about 20,000 orders nationwide before the first of the new trucks roll off the lot, said Manny Villareal, Fleet and Commercial Sales Manager Port Lavaca Auto Group.
Among Ford’s other goals include a 76% reduction in Ford’s greenhouse gases that come from Scope 1 and 2 gases — gases emitted from sources Ford owns and those emitted indirectly because of the generation of electricity. Ford also set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% per kilometer for Scope 3 emissions — emissions from vehicles Ford sells.
The Mach-E is one newcomer to Ford’s line that is already on the lot and driving down the road in the Crossroads.
“The goal of having more electric vehicles coalesces with the goal that almost all American industry has, which is to lower our carbon footprint, to have cleaner energy so we can preserve our air and water,” Griffin said. “The goal of electrification needs to have a parallel on the road toward … making sure there’s charging infrastructure.”
Four models of the Mach-E are available, and they come with Level 2 charging stations — charging stations necessary to recharge one of the electric vehicles at home.
But outside of charging at home, the proliferation of charging stations in public places is still a work in progress.
Inciting infrastructure, integrating everyone
Of the approximately 42,000 charging stations, many are often found at car dealerships, along highways and at various businesses like hotels or restaurants. Some require a credit or debit card, others are free and some can only be accessed while the business is open.
Charging at home is not cost prohibitive for non-high-income people currently, Kontou said. But installation of this technology for those who rent their dwelling or don’t have access to a garage can be difficult.
“I believe we are gradually working toward preparing plans for electric vehicle charging infrastructure coverage,” she said.
“These are important equity considerations where public agencies need to start thinking about the importance of public charging and how they could incentivize property owners and property managers to install infrasturure,” Kontou said.
In the future, Kontou expects a used electric vehicle market that is more accessible for more people, she said.
The number of electric vehicle rebates, and therefore ownership, increased among low-income people in a joint study Kontou co-published that examined buyers in California.
The study found “that rebates have been predominantly given to high income electric vehicle buyers. However, the share of rebates distributed to low-income groups and disadvantaged communities increased over time and after an income-cap policy was put into effect,” which are effects of various local and state government policies.
The U.S. Department of Energy compiles laws and incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, but most in Texas are not specific to the Crossroads. California currently passes the rest of the U.S. in public policies promoting electric vehicles.
“People need to just enjoy the actual experience, and see and feel it for themselves,” Griffin said. “As a kid, I had always admired and played with electric trains and how they could get up and go really fast. And I had always wondered as a kid, why weren’t cars like that?”
Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor’s in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.