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Austin wants more EV charging stations. City Council will vote on where they can go.

A black electric crossover is plugged into a DC fast-charger on Electric Drive in the Seaholm District. It had just rained, so the car is coated in raindrops and the ground is somewhat reflective from being wet.
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
The EV charging station proposal would limit stations from being built in residential or pedestrian-friendly areas.

In early April, the electric vehicle infrastructure company Voltera brought a proposal to Austin’s Planning Commission to build an EV charging station on the 2700 block of East Cesar Chavez. The company planned for the station to be built on the parking lot of an empty restaurant space and service rideshare companies that use EVs.

Nearby homeowners bristled at the idea.

“Voltera seems to be pursuing a worthy goal ... to foster this large-scale electric transportation revolution,” resident Michael Phalan told commissioners. But “this project will only take from the neighborhood, while offering nothing in return except for security fencing, surveillance cameras and increased vehicle traffic.”

The commission rejected the plan.

The failed effort to build the charging station on Chavez is just one example of what city planners are running up against as electric vehicles become a fixture in Austin. More EVs mean a greater need for charging stations throughout the city, but finding the sweet spot for stations is complicated by city zoning restrictions and community opposition. City Council is looking into regulating the construction of stations on Thursday — here's what to know.

A look at Austin's proposed EV rules

When it comes to electric vehicle registration, Travis County leads the charge.

Travis County has the highest electric vehicle adoption rate among the five biggest counties in Texas, which includes Harris, Dallas, Tarrant and Bexar counties. Over 2.1% of registered vehicles in Travis County are now battery-powered, according to car registration data through November 2023.

That’s good news for city efforts to fight air pollution and reduce carbon emissions. But the growth of the EV fleet will require a simultaneous boom in vehicle charging stations, according to city officials. Where those stations should get built is something the City of Austin is working to regulate with new zoning rules.

These new rules are part of a larger package of zoning amendments that include the second part of the HOME initiative, which seeks to encourage new home building and increase affordability.

The EV charging station proposal would limit stations from being built in “active, residential, mixed-use or other pedestrian friendly areas,” Eric Thomas, zoning division manager with the city’s planning department, told City Council members at a meeting last month.

The city would allow charging stations on land in “less restrictive” zoning areas and favor their construction near certain types of roadways. This includes places zoned for general commercial services, such as offices or retail space; liquor stores; or industrial districts, like manufacturing and warehouse sites.

Other parts of the plan

Under the new rules, current and discontinued gas stations will also be considered prime locations for new charging stations. But EV stations won't be allowed at old gas station sites if they have already been converted to restaurant or residential use.

Underground charging stations will also be prohibited, under recommendation from the Austin Fire Department.

The construction of charging stations will also address goals detailed in City Council’s Climate Equity Plan. Thomas said the new stations will help the city reach its target of having 40% of miles driven in Austin come from EVs by 2030.

“The proposed new use will balance environmental benefits with land use considerations to allow responsible development in the most appropriate places around our great city,” he said. 

The City Council is set to vote on the new EV charging station rules Thursday along with other zoning amendments.

Clarification: This story was updated to reflect that Voltera's project was intended for commercial vehicles.

Elizabeth was a KUT intern in the spring of 2024.
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