The Electric Vehicle Revolution Arrives in North Texas
According to Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities (DFWCC) data, there are 38,438 registered electric vehicle (EV) owners in North Texas as of December 2021. Statewide, there were 104,818 (for a breakdown by county, visit dfwcleancities.org/evnt). As the number of EV owners continues to grow, along with a growing urgency to halt climate change, area stakeholders are stepping up.
Lori Pampell Clark is the program manager and DFWCC coordinator for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). The Clean Cities program is a U.S. Department of Energy initiative that comprises a national network of grassroots coalitions in local communities working on advancing energy efficiency and emissions reduction. “Everything that’s happening in Texas in regard to EVs is happening because of market forces. We don’t have top-down state regulations that are making decisions for people. These are decisions by individual citizens and fleets making their own choices,” she says.
Pampell Clark attributes the exponential growth curve in EV ownership to greater availability and a variety of makes and models, including pickup trucks and SUVs, appealing to a broader audience.
The Try and Drive Alternatives program operated by DFWCC allows fleet managers and consumers to borrow clean vehicle technologies such as alternative-fuel and electric vehicles for a trial period before making an investment. DFWCC is developing a relationship with the North Texas Auto Dealers Association to offer opportunities such as electric vehicle dedicated spaces at local auto shows, so consumers can gain hands-on experience.
Pampell Clark says her organization also participates in national Drive Electric Week. This past fall, DFWCC partnered with other organizations to offer a Ride and Drive event that drew 80 people participating in test drives and ride-alongs to experience EVs first-hand. They also plan to bring EVs to smaller events such as Earth Day celebrations and farmers' markets.
Alternative Fuel Stations Coming to I-45
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015, authorized the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to designate highway corridors for different alternative fuels, including natural gas, propane, hydrogen and electricity. Interstate 45 is among those corridors.
Pampell Clark says there are two levels of designation. “There were already enough fueling stations on the natural gas and the propane side for the corridor to be designated ‘ready’, but it was designated as ‘pending’ for electricity and hydrogen,” she explains. “We received a small planning grant from the FHA to map out how to get this corridor running with enough EV infrastructure so that it’s considered ‘ready’ under the FHA’s criteria for zero-emission vehicles.”
NCTCOG considers electrification to include hydrogen fuel electric and battery electric. “Either one is an electric drive train, so when we think about electrification, we do include both. For the consumer market, it’s really battery electric that’s available and practical in Texas.”
Because so much freight traffic travels down I-45, DFWCC is placing a heavy emphasis on freight; they want to plan stations that will serve either battery electric or cell trucks with electric charging or hydrogen that can transport freight with zero-emissions. But on the consumer side, they’re researching how to build out electric vehicle charging options for the general public.
Other efforts include working with cities to help identify funding support to install charging stations for cities to operate in public locations. In addition, they want to work with businesses in their communities to install EV charging stations at multifamily properties and workplaces.
Hidden Charging Options
Fueling stations abound for traditional vehicles. They feature bright, visible signage, with big canopies and often large convenience stores attached. Electric charging stations have a different model. “EV stations are often small, electric pedestals tucked away in a corner. They’re very unobtrusive,” Pampell Clark says. “We’ve gotten acclimated to the look of this big flashy thing that equals a filling station, so it requires us to change the way we think. It also requires a little more advanced planning, because we have to look for where these locations are. Often, they’re tucked around the corner of a restaurant or a store. You don’t have a piece of property whose sole purpose is providing charging.”
Several smartphone apps are available that can help EV users locate charging stations. The Department of Energy’s free Alternative Fuels Station Locator includes all alternative fuel sources, and users can filter specifically for electric charging stations. The Plug Star app compiles information from crowdsourced data.
Pampell Clark affirms there are hundreds of charging stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that offer different types of charging. Consumers have to be aware of whether they need a Level 2 charging station or DC fast charge.
Auto Dealers Optimistic About the Future of Electric
Sam Pack is the founder and president of the Sam Pack Auto Group, which operates four Ford dealerships, one Chevrolet and one Subaru dealership in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area. He also co-owns six dealerships in Tulsa. In the industry since 1980, Pack has seen previous efforts to introduce EVs to the public, but none have generated the momentum he’s seeing today. “It’s a completely different world and environment,” he says. “We’re excited about what’s happening with electrification. We are in the infancy stages of this transition. None of us know exactly what the future will bring, but we’re experiencing a major transition from combustion engine to electrified, and it’s coming at a very rapid pace.”
As society transitions from internal combustion engines to EVs, Pack emphasizes that it’s crucial for all stakeholders to build relationships now. Those stakeholders include federal, state and local governments, auto manufacturers, industry partners and dealers. Unlike previous attempts to introduce EVs to the public, Pack notes that today’s advanced technology can be the uniting factor among all entities involved in the EV revolution. He advises, “Technology is going to continue to drive the rapid pace of this learning journey that we are all on.”
Speaking as an auto dealer, Pack says it’s their responsibility to work with all stakeholders to deliver an exceptional experience to the consumer. Today, EVs are still a very small percentage of an auto dealer’s business. Because they are designed to have lower maintenance and repair costs, Pack says that will dramatically change some aspects of a dealer’s business model, and relationships with industry third-party providers such as parts manufacturers will ultimately be affected. He predicts that mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures might all be a part of the EV revolution. “Infrastructure will also play a big role in the pace and success of EVs” he notes.
Ford’s Electric Vehicle Innovation
Zero-emission EVs will play a key role in improved air quality. As the country tries to wean itself off fossil fuels, Ford has chosen to electrify some of its signature models to appeal to more customers.
Pack says the Mustang Mach-E SUV, introduced in 2021, has been very successful. “The demand is exceeding supply,” he says. “Ford has several products that are going to be very interesting for the industry to watch. Mustang is one of their iconic vehicles, so Ford had to make sure the Mach-EV delivered to the demands expected of a Mustang—and it has.” Ford will also introduce a second version of an electrified Mustang in the GT series. Pack says it will be a performance vehicle.
The F series pickup, America’s best-selling truck for 44 consecutive years, has been marketed and manufactured by Ford since 1948. An electric version, the F-150 Lightning, generated a buzz when President Joe Biden test drove one this past spring at Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Michigan.
Pack indicates that the company has 160,000 backorders for the F-150 Lightning. “The F-150 is to me, the foundation of Ford Motor Company. When you think about electrifying vehicles and which ones to focus on, by choosing the Mustang and the F series, it shows how Ford values the products, the brand and their commitment to electrification.”
Ford’s E-Transit cargo van will be available in 2022. Pack says the company is investing 30 billion dollars into EVs by 2025 to electrify their most iconic nameplates, and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050. “Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, has a goal to make Ford the number two EV maker in North America [behind Tesla], and eventually to be number one,” Pack says.
General Motors has gone all in when it comes to electrification, and has announced a $27 billion commitment to develop and produce clean vehicle technologies. Their plan is to introduce 30 new EVs by 2035. The electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup will be revealed in January. Subaru’s first-ever EV, the Solterra electric compact crossover, is expected to be released in 2023.
Despite the reservations of some people about purchasing EVs, Pack points to retail orders that suggest consumer acceptance of EVs is strong. “As always, the ‘voice of the customer’, will determine our business model of the future, and EV is no exception. Our responsibility is to deliver a truly exceptional ownership experience, and we will continue to do so,” he advises.
Charging Station Availability Grows
Blink Charging, a company headquartered in Miami Beach, was founded by Michael D. Farkas as The Car Charging Group in 2009. The company’s origins are tied to one of the earliest charge-point networks developed by Ecotality. In 2017, the company was rebranded to Blink Charging—the original name of Ecotality’s charging network. The company’s business model includes multiple revenue streams such as direct equipment sales, owners and operators of EV chargers and a lease-like subscription model for site hosts.
The 2021 federal infrastructure bill includes funding to build out the first-ever national network of electric vehicle charging stations across the country. Building on this momentum, the company is committed to investing heavily in the future of the EV industry and has recognized the benefits of EVs since it entered the market almost 13 years ago, according to Brendan Jones, President of Blink.
Advantages of investing in the EV revolution include cleaner transportation, modern technology and lifetime savings over owning a gas-powered car. As EV adoption continues to accelerate, Blink is working on new products to help meet the demand, she says.
First Steps to Helping Consumers Unlock Benefits of EVs
Blink is bringing cities around the country and the world into the future of mobility by building a network of accessible and convenient EV charging infrastructure. The business is building on its decade-plus of industry experience. In 2021, Blink launched a partnership with the city of San Antonio to deploy 202 Level 2 charging stations and three DC fast chargers throughout the city, furthering the city’s Electric Vehicle San Antonio Program.
In order to drive widespread adoption, building a network of publicly accessible chargers for drivers that do not have access to a personal or public garage is a crucial step. By readily providing charging infrastructure to any zip code, such as Blink Mobility’s BlueLA car sharing program in coordination with the city of Los Angeles, and other partnerships with public agencies around the country, consumers everywhere will be able to unlock the benefits of EVs.
With an owner-operator model, Blink strives to do their part in the EV revolution by providing customers and partners with unique charging stations for every location, along with a 360-degree solution they can rely on in a rapidly evolving market. Since 2009, Blink has deployed 30,000 charging stations in more than 18 countries, and is continuing to pioneer new technologies that will help accelerate that growth.