Thursday, March 9, 2023

Council Approves Measure to Expand Public Charging Stations

In recognition of the growing surge of electric vehicles in Austin, the City Council took steps Thursday to ensure the city has a robust network of public charging stations.

The Council voted to direct the City Manager to develop a plan for the equitable distribution of public charging stations, including DC (direct current) fast chargers and Level 2 chargers, which are more common in homes and workplaces.

The resolution, brought by District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, aligns with the goals of the Austin Climate Equity Plan, which calls for reaching net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 as well as the distribution of a mix of public charging stations throughout the city. A more immediate challenge of the climate plan is the goal of reducing our use of fossil fuels to nearly zero by 2030.

“Making charging stations, especially fast chargers, more accessible throughout the city might nudge people who may be on the fence about electric vehicles to make the switch,” Pool said. “Having more access and more users will go a long way toward reducing our use of fossil fuels community wide.”

Initial cosponsors joining Pool on the resolution were Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Members  Zohaib “Zo” Qadri, José 'Chito' Vela, and Alison Alter. Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis and Council Members Vanessa Fuentes, Natasha Harper-Madison, and Ryan Alter also signed on as cosponsors.

The number of electric vehicles in Austin has grown by nearly 40% over the past year, according to data provided by nonprofit Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, or TxETRA.

Recent federal action has opened competitive funding opportunities for the city to finance the charging stations, including $20 million of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding to CAMPO, $2.5 billion in NEVI Clean Fuel Infrastructure grants, and credits up to $100,000 per charging station.

With its vote, the Council further directed the City Manager to coordinate with local and regional partners on this initiative, and to establish priorities for an initial three-year implementation phase of the plan. The Council expects a progress report with timelines by mid-September.