Austin expanding electric vehicles to multi-family homes, schools


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Less than a year since the city adopted its 2040 climate equity plan, city officials rolled out the latest initiatives at making electric vehicles more accessible to the wider population.

Under the city’s climate equity plan, the city has established a 2040 goal for net-zero carbon dioxide emissions and a 2030 benchmark for 30% of miles traveled in Austin to come from electric vehicles.

Austin Energy expanding school, residential access

Amy Atchley — senior lead for Austin Energy’s EV Equity Program and its Emerging Technologies and Electric Vehicle team — told KXAN Wednesday a multi-faceted outreach approach has helped connect with multi-family homes, schools and communities across Austin to explain the different electric vehicle opportunities within the city.

“This is a behavior shift,” she said. “We really want to help people feel good and have a full knowledge of, you know, what does this mean for them, because change is hard.”

Currently, Austin Energy has helped install 1,300 EV charging ports across the city, with all the stations entirely powered by Texas wind energy. There are approximately 17,000 registered EVs in Austin.

AE is also working in tandem with community endeavors like the Georgian Acres mobility hub, a majority affordable housing development in the works that will have onsite e-bike charging, an EV car share, public transit access and e-bikes for each resident.

On the educational forefront, Austin Energy has partnered with 122 Central Texas schools on its “EVs for Schools” program, which provides EV charging at public school campuses in addition to an EV curriculum. The program prioritizes its efforts at Title One schools to reach children from lower-income backgrounds or communities of color, who historically have been left out of EV access.

“What the children are getting at the school level as they’re watching their heroes, their teachers, plugging into this infrastructure every day, then they’re getting the curriculum and all of a sudden, it’s a behavior shift that’s normalized,” Atchley said.

Austin Energy launched a resource guide of places to purchase EVs locally, along with where to find an EV charging station.

Macro- and micro-mobility services tapping into EV technology

While electric vehicle conversations have centered on electric-powered cars, that’s not the only technology incorporated into Austin’s transit grid. EV technology has played a major role in the city’s public transit expansions and micro-mobility initiatives.

Rob Borowski, CapMetro’s sustainability officer, said the transit authority has aligned its green energy initiatives to match the city’s 2040 climate equity plan.

As part of that effort, CapMetro has established a 2035 goal to have a 100% zero-emissions fleet. Last year, CapMetro procured almost 200 additional electric buses, the authority will roll out overt eh next five years, with 12 e-buses currently operational and in service.

On the micro-mobility level, CapMetro has increased its MetroBike fleet eight times over since 2013, when it had 100 e-bikes in service. Now, nearly 850 e-bikes and 79 docking stations are operating.

With Project Connect in the works, Borowski said CapMetro will also be employing electric and other forms of green energy to assist with bus and rail constructions down the road.

What impact has Tesla had on Austin’s EV scene?

Atchley said the city’s evolution toward EV technology in recent years has helped make the city a competitive resource for tech companies, with its latest collaboration with Tesla a sign of that. She said city leaders are collaborating on efforts to expand workforce development opportunities with the tech company and reach both students and employees in the region.

“Austin is just a wonderful testbed for technology,” she said. “And we’re excited to see it. We feel like, because of the reputation of some of the work that we’ve been doing over the past 11 years, specifically around electric vehicles, that was one of the enticing points of coming here to Austin.”

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