Green Organization    

Sept. 2012

By Julie Thibodeaux      

Gas-powered trucks and SUVs far outnumber them but electric cars are slowly catching on in North Texas. While many are still waiting for prices on electric vehicles to go down and their range capability to go up, some Dallas-Fort Worth residents are on the road to kicking the gas habit.    

There are more than 400 electric and hybrid cars registered in the 16-county North Texas region, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.  The market for electric vehicles ranges widely with prices starting at $29,000 for the subcompact Mitsubishi i-MiEV to $77,000 for the luxury Tesla Model S. Both quality for a $7,500 tax credit. The typical all-electric car can travel 50 to more than 100 miles on a full charge, while the high-end Tesla boasts a 300-mile range.     (Tesla - Photo: Phillip Shinoda)

Nathan Drozd, transportation planner for NCTCOG, said both he and his wife are electric car converts. He drives his Nissan Leaf from Midlothian to Arlington everyday, while his wife commutes to Plano in her Chevy Volt. “We love it,” he said.   Drozd maintains the online electric car charging station map on NCTCOG’s website and enjoys testing out some of the 115 stations installed across the Metroplex. On his lunch hour, he stops in at those near useful destinations, like restaurants and drug stores. ( Photo: Electric vehicle at the North Central Texas Council of Government’s onsite charging station.) 

Blink and eVgo operate the most stations in North Texas. Almost all offer Level 2 chargers, which can fully charge most batteries in about 7 hours on 240 V. However, eVgo has installed more than a dozen Level 3 stations in the area that can juice up a battery to 80 percent capacity in about 15 minutes.       

According to Lori Clark, spokesperson for NCTCOG’s transportation department, most people recharge their electric vehicles on their home outlets overnight. And while it’s still impractical to make long trips from Dallas to Houston, she believes building the local charging infrastructure has helped spur sales.     “It gives people that level of comfort that they won’t get stranded,” said Clark.     

While some electric car owners seek the security they enjoyed with their gas-powered vehicles, members of the North Texas Electric Auto Association get a jolt from experimenting with the technology.     Not waiting on the industry to develop affordable EVs, the group, which has about 30 members, have converted everything from a 1984 Pontiac Fiero to a John Deere tractor from gas to electric in their own garages.     

    
Photo: NTEAA club member Jared Leverington’s converted electric 1984 Pontiac Fiero. Photo: Under the hood of the electric 1984 Pontiac Fiero.

Club president Ron Swanson, a retired nuclear engineer, said he’s been “playing around” with electric cars since the 1980s.  Converting a gas car to electric isn’t cheap. It can cost from $6,000 to $25,000 and requires some technical savvy. “Most of our guys use off the shelf parts not specifically designed for electric cars,” he said.      However he said more companies are starting to make parts available for EV buffs.      

Swanson said the culture’s focus on gas-powered vehicles is a mindset that can be changed.  “It’s just a habit,” he said. “The whole structure of the economy is built on oil.”   Swanson said electric cars are not a new idea. They outsold gas-powered vehicles in the early 1900s. But today, it’s fear of the unknown that keeps people from switching.   “I never run out of gas in my gas car and I don’t expect to run out of electricity in my electric car,” said Swanson.         
For more information on the North Texas Electric Auto Association, see http://www.nteaa.org.       

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Julie Thibodeaux is a Fort Worth-based writer covering environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Contact her at julie@jthibodeaux.com.