West Texas caravan highlights growth of electric vehicles

Matt Welch, state director, Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation, and Jade Gillespie Doss, director of programs, show a Hummer Electric Vehicle during a caravan of electric vehicles through West Texas.

A caravan of electric vehicles of various sizes, from a school bus to a Volvo C40 and Ford Mustang Mach E came humming through Midland recently to highlight electric vehicles and stress the need to build out the state’s electric transportation infrastructure.

Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation believes in free markets, competition and entrepreneurship, said Matt Welch, state director, during the caravan’s Midland stop at the Electrify America charging station in the Walmart parking lot at 200 Interstate 20.

“Why we’re here is to let conservatives in West Texas know it’s OK to be for electric vehicles,” said Welch, as he stood next to a Hummer electric vehicle. He was driving the Volvo C40 along with Jade Gillespie Doss, director of programs for the organization. 

Conservatives should appreciate the number of jobs created by what he called the electric vehicle revolution and the economic impact of manufacturers coming to Texas.

“It’s the whole supply chain: High tech electronics, battery recyclers,” Welch said.

He added he’s aware of the misgivings people may have about electric vehicles, pointing out that no new technology is perfect or widely accepted on day one.

“I’m sure the horse-and-buggy people scoffed at Henry Ford,” he said. “Life changes, society changes. Electric vehicles are here to say. The juggernaut is here and, in fact, getting stronger.”

Jessica Keithan, director and co-founder of the Texas Electric School Bus Project, said the organization is the first and only nonprofit in the country to advocate for electric school buses and works to facilitate the transition to zero-emissions buses in as speedy and equitable a fashion as possible.

“Bus emissions hurt kids,” she stated. Furthermore, school districts could save $175,000 over the lifetime of a single bus in maintenance and fuel costs. Not to mention, she said, that the big batteries on those school buses could be used to put power back into the grid in times of emergencies that result in power outages. 

Colleges could develop programs to train people to work on electric buses, maintain electric chargers,” Keithan said. “Texas could be a leader in electric vehicle maintenance education.”

Tom “Smitty” Smith, executive director of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, said his group organized the caravan “to let people know the future is electrifying rapidly. By 2030, he said, 50% of vehicles sold will be electric. They are cheaper to own and operate, with costs a third of traditional internal combustion cars and “they’re more fun to drive. They’re faster, they handle better, they’re solid-feeling cars.”

Like Welch, he said the vehicles will create Texas jobs – and in fact about 20,000 related jobs have already been created.

“The first step is border-to-border charging network and Texas Department of Transportation already has a plan to place chargers up and down the interstate,” Smith said. “Two, and this is important to West Texas, there’s funding to place charging stations in 190 counties that don’t have them, and TxDOT will help figure out where to place them.”

They could be placed along the interstate or they could be placed in town as a way to attract visitors, he said. Since charging vehicles takes a while, he said those visitors would have time to dine at restaurants or shop in stores.

There are a number of grants available to establish charging infrastructure and even to help school districts by electric buses, Smith said. Smaller school districts using those grants to buy electric buses “could reduce their costs enough to fund another teacher,” he said.


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