Texas would boost number of public EV charging stations under pending bills

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The article originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

Texas lawmakers are considering a pair of bills aimed at firming up regulations and protecting consumers as the state’s network of electric vehicle charging stations is built out.

Electrifying transportation is often seen as crucial to combating climate change, but supporters of electric vehicles say without a robust network of charging stations it can be challenging to entice buyers into EV purchases. Moves have been made at the federal level to pave the way for more public charging stations, and Senate Bills 1001 and 1002 are part of the state’s effort to address the issue. 

Here’s a roundup of some of the legislation making its way through the state legislature that will impact current and potential electric vehicle owners. 

SB 1001

This bill sets guidelines for how EV charging stations are registered and inspected. Tom “Smitty” Smith, executive director of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA), says the bill will treat EV charging stations similar to gas stations. 

“You know the gas pump has been inspected,” Smith said, “and that the amount of gas you’re paying for is what you’re getting because the Department of Licensing and Regulation inspects it and will step in if there’s an allegation of fraud or poor fuel quality.” 

SB 1001 would do something comparable, he said, including requiring charging prices be disclosed before a charge is initiated and setting up a consumer complaint process. 

It also provides a framework for companies to register EV charging stations with the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation. 

While the legislation was introduced by two Republicans, it passed the State Senate with bipartisan support and could be taken up by the House any day.

SB 1002

One of SB 1002’s sponsors, Sen. Charles Schwertner, said during a committee hearing in March that the bill would establish a competitive market that protects consumers. 

The key part of the bipartisan legislation would limit how regulated electric utilities – which are able to recoup costs of certain projects from ratepayers – are able to engage in the EV charging market.

“It seeks to ensure consumer transparency by prohibiting utilities from utilizing ratepayer funds to build, own and operate charging stations that would raise the rates for utility customers that may never own an EV,” Schwertner said in the hearing. 

Electric utilities such as CenterPoint could be affiliated with third-party entities that build charging stations, but are barred from recovering the costs of building those stations from ratepayers. 

The bill is supported by a wide range of consumer and electric vehicle advocates. During the committee hearing, speakers in favor of the bill included the AARP, major EV charging retailer ChargePoint, the gas station convenience store chain Love’s Travel Stops, environmental group the Sierra Club and TxETRA. No one testified against the legislation. 

“Eighty percent of the charging we’re going to need is going to be built with private funds, and won’t be relying on state or federal funds,” said TxETRA’s Smith. “What these bills, 1001 and 1002, are doing is putting some of the building blocks into the foundation of the electric vehicle transformation in Texas.”

SB 1002 has passed out of committee and could go up for a vote in the state Senate any time. 

Other EV related legislation

Senate Bill 505 would implement an initial $400 electric vehicle registration fee with the state, followed by a $200 annual renewal fee

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, said the fee is meant to help replace money the state would get from taxes on gasoline. 

“Much of the road highway maintenance monies come through taxes on gasoline and diesel,” Krishnamoorti said. “Those are federally collected and then sent back to the states – it’s perhaps the biggest way in which highways are maintained.”

Although some EV and automaker advocates have resisted similar bills in the past, they’ve said some fee is warranted and have opted not to fight the legislation. 

The bipartisan bill has passed the state Senate and been sent to committee in the House. 

This story was updated April 11 with Ramanan Krishnamoorti’s current title.