Electric Vehicles in Rural Communities

Electric Vehicles in Rural Communities

Episode 4138 , Episode 4152
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Those who live in or near large cities enjoy ready access to public and private transportation, where bus, rail, taxi and ride share options are plentiful. But for smaller communities, getting around can be a real challenge. Well, we recently visited one Texas town that has found a smart, clean solution for shrinking this big problem.

Bastrop, Texas, is located about 30 miles southeast of Austin. It covers nine square miles and is home to around 9000 people. It’s a pleasant place to live or visit, on the edge of Texas hill country with the Colorado river passing nearby; a thriving main street downtown and a relaxed vibe all around.

Typical of small towns in the area, there are no city buses or subways here. Carts, the capital area rural transportation system, offers low-cost van rides for folks to get around within the city limits, or to connect with regional transit options.

And since December of 2019, Bastrop has collaborated with the lone star clean fuels alliance and e-cabs of North America to provide a cost-free and emissions-free micro-transit ride service using GEM low-speed battery electric vehicles. The US Department of Energy funded this two-year pilot project to explore how well these low-speed EV’s could meet a rural community’s first- and last-mile transit needs.

The GEMs carry 5 passengers and can legally travel on roads with speed limits up to 45 miles per hour, though the cabs themselves top out at 25. They can sustain 3 to 4 hours of continuous duty per charge.

E-cabs operates on evenings and weekends, and covers a limited area surrounding downtown Bastrop, but there are no pre-determined routes. It’s all on-demand and on the rider’s schedule, and these things stay busy! They also offer a para-transport option with a foldaway accessibility ramp.

The system allows riders to request electric cab service through a phone call or a mobile app. The e-cab driver is alerted immediately, and pickup time is typically fifteen minutes or less.

Bastrop mayor Connie Schroeder is a frequent rider, and she knows a thing or two about riding in style!

MAYOR CONNIE SCHROEDER: It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small town or a big town, you need to be able to get around. Everybody needs to go to the post office, go to a doctor, maybe get something to eat, and that last mile can be extremely hard. It can be hard if you don’t have a vehicle, it can be hard if you’re elderly.

JOHN DAVIS: Frequently taking the place of larger conventional vehicles, the system’s electric vehicles translate into lower per-trip fuel consumption and emissions.  Bastrop’s e-cabs are re-charged using electricity from the Texas grid, which relies on one of the country’s highest proportions of renewable energy sources.

Nationwide, adoption of electric vehicles has lagged in rural areas when compared to urban markets. The hope is that the electric shuttles can increase comfort and familiarity with EV technology in the community, and could lead to greater interest in electric vehicle ownership, too.

CHRIS NIELSEN: This is a good idea because it’s incredibly inexpensive to operate, it’s efficient, the people like it. We have a lot of traction, and we’ve been adopted by the community here. And we’re a part of it now, and this has happened everywhere that we’ve deployed.

JOHN DAVIS: The e-cabs are bringing new mobility options to the citizens of Bastrop, and showing that even a small town can set a big example for clean transportation.

MAYOR CONNIE SCHROEDER: They take care of the environment, they’re convenient, they’re easy, and there isn’t anything better than waving to your friends when you’re in a free e-cab ride.


EV Sales 4

EV Sales

Episode 4336
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

The headlines are everywhere: electric vehicle sales are down! Dealers are swamped with unsold EVs! Car companies are doubling down on internal-combustion engines! The EV era is over before it began! And so on…

You know, there’s a lot of misinformation swirling around these days about the state of the current EV market. So, what are the facts and where might EVs go from here?

We’re in the midst of the most revolutionary shake up of the automotive market since the car replaced the horse as our preferred form of personal transportation back in the early 1900s. Then, as now, drivers faced the same decision of choosing petrol or electric power for their cars, and carmakers offered both options.

EV Sales 1

As it turned out, the rapid expansion of our interstate road system outpaced the electrification of rural America, paving the way for petroleum to take the lead in widespread availability, and to largely squeeze electrics out of the car market. Fast forward a hundred years: America is now wired from coast to coast, and advances in battery technology have made it possible for electric vehicles to perform competitively with gas and diesel models.

But more importantly, environmental concerns have become an important factor in determining our fuel of choice, fostering the second coming of the electric vehicle.

Now EV sales, including both plug-in hybrids and pure battery electrics, are surging beyond the early adopter and novelty stage, rising 46.5% in 2022 and 53.8% in 2023, achieving a record 9% of the total car market last year. After such rapid growth, some moderation was expected, but are EV sales really falling as headlines proclaim?

The short answer is no. While growth has slowed, plug-in vehicles still grew 17% in the first quarter of 2024, increasing their market share further as overall car sales rose only 5%.

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JOHN O’DONNELL: “There’s a lot of articles and media suggesting that we’ve already reached a plateau for EV sales, and that’s false, that’s incorrect. The rate of adoption is slowing, but it’s still increasing nationwide. State by state, it varies.The coasts, east and west coasts, have the higher penetration. The center of the country is adopting at a more slow rate, but make no mistake, this is not going away simply because somebody wrote an article.”

Another trend we’ve noticed is that consumers’ preferred type of EV is shifting. For all of 2023, about 80% of EVs sold were pure battery electric. But plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid sales are growing, and currently make up a quarter of total EV sales.

When faced with the EV market’s three-headed conundrum: limited number of affordable battery electric choices, fear of range anxiety, and a public charging infrastructure that’s still a work in progress, many buyers see plug in hybrids as a safe near-term bridge to eventually going all-electric. And that shift is now forecast to widen for the foreseeable future, as manufacturers release more new PHEVs into the market.

EV Sales

JOHN O’DONNELL: “Consumer affordability is always on our minds, representing the people who sell the cars, but it’s also on the mind of the state, local and federal governments. They know that they need to help us balance the amount of technology, which costs money through research and development, and what the average consumer can afford.”

The good news for consumers is that EV prices are already coming down, and, with dozens of new electric vehicles of all types expected to enter the market over the next 18 months, there is little doubt that such increased competition will cause EV prices to moderate even further. Thus, most market experts are still conservatively predicting EVs to pass the 12% market share point for all of 2024, and 15%, or over 2 million new EVs on the road, in 2025.

Add to that continuing improvements in driving range and charging infrastructure, and the future of EVs in America is still quite bright. American consumers are smart enough to question the naysayers. They know that the time is finally right for the electric automobile to come into its own. It’s not only the best thing for the environment, it just makes good driving sense.