Texas Triangle Plug-In Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan - Summary

Interlinking travel corridors between the five largest cities in Texas

Texas Triangle Plug-In Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan

Prepared by the Center for the Commercialization of Electric Technologies

The report consists of three volumes: Volume 1 - Summary and Recommendations, Volume 2 - Full Text of the Plan, and Volume 3 - Appendices.
file_extension_pdf (1K)Volume 1- Summary and Recommendations
file_extension_pdf (1K)Volume 2- Full Text of the Plan
file_extension_pdf (1K)Volume 3- Appendices

Scope of the Plan

CCET with funding from the DOE Clean Cities initiative has prepared this Texas Triangle Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Readiness Plan. The geographic scope of this Plan is primarily the triangle created by Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth and San Antonio linked by Interstates 45, 10, and 35, and including the City of Austin. The topical focus of this Plan is recommending actions at the State and local level to reduce barriers to PEV market penetration – particularly in the small and mid-size cities outside of the large metro areas.

There is also a strong focus on the interplay between the grid and PEVs because of CCET's mission of promoting “smart grid” technologies within the State's self-contained electricity grid – ERCOT. CCET is not a government agency nor is it a lobbying organization. Therefore, the actions that make up this Plan are limited to recommendations that various groups including ERCOT, the Texas Legislature, municipal governments, State agencies, electric utilities, and other groups – may want to consider to promote PEV “readiness.”

Background: What is PEV “Readiness” and Why is it Important?

Previous efforts in the 1990s to introduce electric vehicles – primarily to address air quality standards, but also to address fuel economy standards and concerns over the high costs of imported oil – were not successful for a variety of reasons. One of these was that the public and state and local government institutions were perceived as not prepared for the introduction of this new technology – hence the desire to ensure that this most recent wave of PEVs into the market will not fail again because of the lack of readiness on the part of consumers and public institutions.

Advocates for PEVs cite three major reasons as a rationale for promoting PEVs through public expenditures: (1) air quality, including the belief by many that carbon emissions will have catastrophic effects on global climate, (2) the need to reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil (much of this from countries that are unfriendly to the US), and (3), the belief that with mass production and continued improvements in battery technology the lifetime costs of the PEVs will be less than that of conventional ICE vehicles, thus providing consumer benefits in terms of reduced transportation costs.

Current sales of PEVs are mostly to those who either want a hedge against further gasoline price spikes or shortages, are motivated by environmental concerns, and/or are an early adopter interested in the technology and performance of electric vehicles.

Rationale behind the Texas Triangle PEV Readiness Plan (Plan)

There were two guiding premises behind the CCET grant application. One was that each of the large metropolitan areas in the triangle had made considerable progress in developing PEV promotion and readiness programs, but that the small and mid-size cities lacked a similar level of PEV awareness and readiness.

A second premise was that there are issues related to PEV readiness that could be better handled from a statewide perspective. CCET was asked to identify barriers to PEV market penetration and recommend measures to overcome these barriers, thus achieving “PEV Readiness.”

Organization of the Plan

With CCET as the grant recipient, several individuals and firms were contracted to develop individual elements of the Plan based on identified barriers to PEV readiness. The Plan elements are presented in individual chapters in Volume II and include analyses of:

  • State of Texas PEV, and alternative fuels, legislation over the past six years as well as State agency actions, (Chapter 2 of the Plan),
  • Barriers to PEV readiness in small and mid-size cities in the Texas Triangle (Chapter 3) ,
  • Electric power industry and grid related PEV issues (Chapter 4),
  • Feasibility of connecting the urban areas in the Texas Triangle with PEV charging infrastructure (Chapter 5),
  • How to provide a state-focused noncommercial and reliable source of PEV information, (Chapter 6), and
  • Issues associated with the long term (Beyond Readiness, Chapter 7).

Volume III consists of appendices with more detailed information in the Plan.

Key Points from the Six Plan Elements

Texas Legislative and Regulatory Setting

With its reluctance to spend taxpayer monies on PEV subsidies and its aversion to having government “pick winners” in technological developments, the State Legislature has not joined 15 other states in enacting significant incentives to PEV market penetration. Most of the activity in the State has been local metropolitan planning organizations and large cities using federal funds to institute programs.

Nevertheless, as Chapter 2 indicates, numerous bills have been introduced and there has been some action at the state agency level. This Plan suggests others, including the use of front-end subsidies for PEVs in ozone non-attainment areas using an existing program managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Other topics discussed include a tax on PEVs to offset the reduced purchases of gasoline that currently fund highway maintenance.

Local Best Practices

Chapter 3 and the more detailed supporting appendices propose a statewide program that would provide mostly non-monetary incentives to local communities to address some 11 initiatives that would overcome barriers to adoption and an easier transition from purely petroleum based transportation to electrified transportation. The 11 options represent both barriers that prevent PEVs from competing fairly with their ICE counterparts (such as unnecessary delays and permitting fees associated with vehicle charging equipment and lack of knowledge leading to irrational decision making) to actual promotion of PEVs (such as allowing PEVs to use high occupancy vehicle lanes and a subsidy for PEV purchases in areas where there would be demonstrable air quality improvement).

The Texas PEV-Friendly Community program would recognize municipalities throughout the entire state that meet a certain level of achievement based on which options are selected and the degree of success of accomplishing them. The program would need a state level entity to sponsor it and would be most efficiently operated in conjunction with a statewide consumer information program with a dedicated website as its centerpiece (Chapter 6).

Electric Utilities and PEV Readiness

Because Texas has its own grid (the rest of the U.S. and Canada is served by a separate interconnected interstate electric grid) regulated by a single set of Texas entities and is now restructured in a largely competitive market, we are in a position to innovate and move relatively quickly to resolve issues and take advantage of opportunities in what is known as smart grid technology. As PEVs become more numerous, they represent both a challenge and an opportunity to operate the grid more efficiently. The great majority of charging will occur in the evening and overnight and at home (or for fleets at a central location or garage). Slight modifications in the exact timing of the charging can mean the difference between exacerbating the stress on the grid (particularly between 5 and 7 pm on summer days) and taking economic advantage of the large volume of West Texas wind generation which is most plentiful at night.

At the micro or neighborhood level, if several households sharing a common transformer each begin charging their PEVs at the same time and the distribution utility is not aware of this possibility, then local transformers and circuits can be overloaded and fail. Chapter 4 discussion and recommendations deal with these types of issues and how they can be addressed in the short term.

Intercity PEV Travel

For drivers of battery electric vehicles (BEVs operate solely on stored electric power in the battery), it is currently very difficult to travel from one major metro area in the Texas Triangle to another. Running out of electric charge creates what is known as “range anxiety” and, thereby, is a barrier to the adoption of the all-electric or BEV segment of the PEV market.

There are several policy options. One is to do nothing and simply wait for the battery technology improvements to extend range and for local businesses along the interstates to install charging equipment to attract customers. As local communities develop charging stations to serve their own populations (either fee-based or free), the range anxiety issue will work itself out through market mechanisms. This “organic growth” of PEV charging stations is considered the business- as-usual (BAU) scenario in Chapter 5 that examines this issue.

A second approach that does not require waiting for technology improvements and organic growth of charging along the connecting roadways is simply to recognize the limitations of BEVs for long trips. Under this approach, a two-car family might have a BEV for in-town travel and a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle or a PHEV for long trips. A single-car family, or an individual, could simply purchase a PHEV and switch to gasoline or diesel power when the charge on the battery is depleted. This would also be a BAU approach and would be enhanced by a good consumer information program (as in Chapter 6).

Consumer Information

Chapter 6 of this Plan addresses what most observers believe is the single most important “need” to remove barriers to PEV market penetration. This is the provision and ready availability of solid, unbiased, easy-to-understand, current information upon which a prospective PEV purchase can base purchasing decisions. This information is not just necessary for the prospective individual customer, but also for those who provide services, fleet owners, and public officials.

Longer Term Planning for Electrification of Transportation - Beyond Readiness

Chapter 7 of this Plan looks beyond the three-to-five year planning horizon implied by “readiness” to suggest initiatives that should be started soon to be ready to adapt to what could be an eventual shift to the electrification of transportation. Much of the discussion in this chapter has a national flavor and, as such, is intended to inform a larger audience. Also, topically the issues addressed pick up and overlap the electric utility/PEV interface discussed in Chapter 4.

List of Recommendations

Each of the chapter authors developed recommendations. They are presented by category. The seven categories are: general, electric power industry, PEV consumer education, intercity charging to address range anxiety from drivers of battery electric vehicles, local best practices for communities to adopt, direct incentives for new PEV purchasers, and recommendations for the longer term (beyond readiness). The table provides a brief description of the barrier that is being addressed, the actual recommendation, and, in the third column, some additional comments. All recommendations presented in Volume 1 are those that the CCET Board of Directors agreed to.