(TNS) — Dallas has 177 electric car chargers at businesses and on public property. But the city will need nearly 3,000 by 2030, according to a national study from the Public Interest Research Group.
The new report is another data point in the debate over how to spend more than $31 million from the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal settlement. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is working on a plan to distribute the state's $209 million. A chunk of that — as much as 15 percent — could be set aside for electric car infrastructure.
With millions at stake, backers of different technologies are making cases for varying approaches. The commission is accepting comments at VWsettle@tceq.texas.gov on how to spend that money. A timeline for completing the plan wasn't immediately available.
An industry group has argued that more money for clean diesel technology would make an immediate impact. Companies making compressed natural gas engines are also lobbying for their niche. And electric car backers suggest they represent the auto industry's future.
"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make that significant initial investment in the infrastructure," said Bay Scoggin, state director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, after a news conference Monday at Dallas City Hall.
The settlement was the result of Volkswagen's efforts to trick emissions testing equipment. Volkswagen diesel vehicles' software would lower emissions while tested but then pollute much more heavily while driving.
The settlement money must be spent on public or private projects to reduce nitrogen oxide. Those emissions create smog and harm public health.
The Texas Public Interest Research Group created the report to show projected needs and to press for electric vehicle-friendly regulations and incentives from local governments.
Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman said his city is a little behind in electric charging infrastructure, particularly in public charging stations. He said there are some chargers at City Hall, Fair Park and Love Field, but many more are needed.
"We really haven't rolled them out into our right-of-ways," he said, referring to areas adjacent to street parking. "There are opportunities for us to add some infrastructure."
Kleinman, who is on his second electric vehicle, a Tesla Model S, said the city could give apartments breaks on parking requirements in exchange for charging stations. He also supports making city rights-of-way available for charging, either city-funded or private.
"The auto industry is clearly going there," Kleinman said. "The broad acceptance is there."
Suzanne Murtha, vice president of connected and automated vehicles for AECOM, which advises governments and companies on infrastructure, said the public sector needs to be ready.
"We don't have a huge penetration of electric vehicles themselves, but we do see basically a hockey stick -- an exponential adopting of the vehicles in the next 20 or 30 years," she said.
Sales of plug-in electric vehicles increased by 38 percent in 2016 and 32 percent in 2017, according to the Public Interest Research Group. The nonprofit's report also highlights Bloomberg New Energy Finance projections that more than half of new vehicles sold worldwide in 2040 would be electric.
Volkswagen and General Motors have announced plans to bring dozens of electric vehicles to the market in upcoming years. And Toyota is expanding its electric lineup.
However, the clean diesel industry hasn't conceded the arguments made by electric vehicle backers. A statement from Diesel Technology Forum say its engines are widely available now, as opposed to other "aspiration options."
"While the VW settlement provides flexibility for states to decide how to spend the dollars, some options will provide more clean air benefits for the dollar and provide those faster than other approaches," according to the group.
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