Drive around Houston and it may seem like half the city has a Tesla. Still, electric vehicles are rare in Texas and likely to remain.
The latest Texas Trends survey from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs and Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs shows that only 5.1 percent of Texans own an electric car, truck, or SUV. This number is actually down from the 2021 survey (electric vehicle questions were not asked in 2022), when it was 8 percent.
Worse for proponents of electric vehicles, it seems like a majority of Texans aren’t interested at all in 2023. Nearly 60 percent said they had no interest in buying an electric vehicle at all. This is slightly down from 2021, when it was 63 percent, but it’s still not much of a statistical indicator that Texans were itching to jump on the electric vehicle train.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans are the least likely to consider owning an electric vehicle (70.7 percent), but independents were also not keen on the idea. Only 29.4 percent of independents said they were very or somewhat likely to purchase a vehicle.
Breaking down the demographics, electric vehicles are most popular with Democrats, younger people, households with incomes above $80,000 a year, and people of color. However, a pretty significant chunk of all demographics are still represented across the board.
Among respondents, the primary reason for not wanting to purchase an electric vehicle seems to be infrastructure related. Worry about adequate charging stations or being able to charge at home dominated complaints, though cost was also mentioned extensively.
Some of those worries are being addressed by the Texas Department of Transportation. Following the passage of President Joe Biden’s signature Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the state will use $440 million of federal funding to build a network of electric charging stations. The plan would install stations roughly every 50 miles along the state’s major freeways.
To look at the data another way, Texas currently makes up 5.56 percent of all new electric vehicle registrations across the country. Only California and Florida outpace Texas. In Dallas, the purchase of electric vehicles is soaring. There was an increase of 63 percent of new electric vehicle registrations from 2022 to 2023 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Owners report being happier with the overall cost of fueling the vehicles.
The electric vehicle is tied up in a great many political culture wars in Texas, where oil and gas make up a significant chunk of the state’s GDP and funds much of the Republican political machine. Recently, the Texas State Board of Education balked at some climate change language in prospective history books, claiming it would endanger the state economy if students thought negatively about oil and gas. There is also a large-scale campaign to paint batteries used in electric vehicles as more costly to the environment than fossil fuel production.