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The Curious Story Of Electric Cars And Texas


Texas cowboy by Flickr user aechempati

Texas cowboy by Flickr user aechempati

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When people think of Texas, there’s always certain stereotypes associated with it: cowboys, twangs, conservative politics, boots, guns and big, gas-guzzling trucks.

While some stereotypes are rooted in truth,  Texas can surprise you. Like when people actually visit a major city and realize that most Texans are neither cowboys nor all heavily accented. Or when a former Texas oilman becomes a champion for clean energy.

Or when West Texas becomes the largest wind-producing region in the U.S., and  the first smart grid rollout in the country takes place in Austin. And when Houston (where I reside) becomes the first major city in the U.S. to elect an openly gay mayor.

Plug-In Vehicle Sales Projections 2011-2017 for 10 largest metropolitan areas, Pike Research

Plug-In Vehicle Sales Projections 2011-2017 for 10 largest metropolitan areas, Pike Research

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Even with these things in mind, I’m still sometimes surprised by how much Texas differs from my idea of it as a long-time Texas resident who’s lived in several different parts of the state. The latest surprise involves electric cars.

According to a Pike Research report, Dallas and Houston are expected to be in the top six “early adopter” cities for electric cars in the U.S. by 2017 (see chart below).

They’re joined by two obvious contenders, the Los Angeles and New York areas, which are expected to lead the nation in electric car adoption. Coming in at a distant third is the Chicago area, and Philadelphia is also on the list.

The projects are based in part on hybrid ownership and manufacturer rollouts. While you do see Priuses around here, Texas isn’t on the initial release list for the Nissan Leaf, though it will be one of the first cities in which the Ford Focus Electric will be launched later this year.

Power plant company NRG, which owns major Texas electricity retailers Green Mountain Energy and Reliant, is investing $10 million in a privately funded electric car charging network in Houston called evGO, which offers monthly plans that allow drivers to charge at stations that will be placed all over the city. CEO David Crane made the argument to VentureBeat last year on why Texas is a good market for electric cars, even despite the urban sprawl and gas prices that are usually on the low side of the national average.

2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

Enlarge Photo

As our editorial partners at Green Car Reports pointed out, though, Texas has two faces: on one hand, it could be a leader in electric car adoption. On the other hand, as John Voelcker writes, “There’ll always be Texas” when he argues that gas guzzlers will never go away. He points out that Chevrolet Suburbans used to sell half their annual production in Texas alone.

Still, if reports are right, times are a-changing. And if electric cars can catch on in places like Texas and Pennsylvania, then there’s a good chance they can eventually be embraced in other places too.

In fact, I’m writing this from the patio of a coffee shop in Houston, which faces a small parking lot. In this lot right now, I count three compact to mid-size sedans, four SUVs (and whaddya know, one of them’s a Suburban) and one big, honkin’ truck.

But … a white Toyota Prius just whizzed down the street. One of the SUVs just left. And in its place parked another Prius.

[Top image via  Flickr/aechempati]

This story, written by Iris Kuo, was originally posted on VentureBeat's GreenBeat, an editorial partner of AllCarsElectric.

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Comments (5)
  1. Nice post. Thanks. Austin is becoming, or has become, one of the leading tech centers in the world, right? So it would seem a natural early adopter center. Not to mention the extremely cool music scene. And I'm from CA, so take it as a compliment.
     
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  2. Not to quibble with statistics, but the Pew chart is a bit misleading. For instance, "cities" as is mentioned in this article, is an incorrect term. The first "city" on the graph is actually made up of THREE metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Orange County. The same for the New York "city" area. Thus, Pew lumps huge areas of the country encompassing six distinct metropolitan areas into two graph lines. That is the reason the first two entrees on the graph dwarf the other cities. I would suggest that if these areas were broken out as they should be, then single metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Houston would drop about four ranks. The graph is misleading.
     
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  3. The numbers must include gold carts.
     
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  4. If you live in one of the Panhandle cities ( Lubboc, Amarillo ETC.) An electric car would seem a natural. On most days you would have no reason to leave your town of 250,000 pop. Where would you go. And the wind turbines in the Panhandle have no place to put the electricity at night.
     
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  5. I'm in North Houston (The Woodlands), and I'm really excited about this article and the announcement of the Volvo V60 (125MPG plugin hybrid station wagon). I am a Prius owner and have been considering buying my 2007 for a Prius plugin when they're available in 2012. It would be GREAT to plug in when I'm running around in Houston :-)
     
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