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As EVs boom in North Texas, communities hurry to fill infrastructure gaps

An electric vehicle charging station in Mesquite.
Yfat Yossifor
An electric vehicle charging station in Mesquite.

The entrance to the offices of LG Electronics in Fort Worth was abuzz with employees and visitors on a windy Friday morning in January.

The company known for making typical household electronics like TVs and cell phones is now in the business of building electric vehicle chargers. Business executives, local leaders and reporters were here to see the company’s brand new state-of-the-art EV charger factory.

It’s the first LG factory in the country of its kind.

“What you're looking at is our first entry of a level three charger, DC ultra-fast charger in the United States and the product will be manufactured in this facility here in Fort Worth, Texas, and it will be available later on this year," said Mike Kosla, senior vice president of U.S. sales.

Kosla said this factory is the final assembly site for new EV chargers that will be shipped across the country.

It’s an important part of the larger fabric of EV infrastructure that’s currently being woven across North Texas and beyond. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates as many as half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. will be EVs by 2030.

New electric vehicle chargers are on display at the LG electric vehicle charging factory in Fort Worth.
Pablo Arauz Peña
Electric vehicle chargers are starting to be built at the LG electric vehicle charger factory in north Fort Worth.

Inside the factory, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker told KERA that this new facility bodes well not just for Fort Worth, but for the region as a whole.

“I really do want Fort Worth to be partnered with companies like LG Electronics that have a firm understanding of what the future looks like," she said. "And they really push communities to think differently and be more innovative."

The electric vehicle industry is booming and EVs are quickly growing as a viable alternative to traditional gas-powered cars. That means there’s a growing need for better EV infrastructure across the region.

Recently, North Texas received $15 million from the Department of Transportation to build more EV chargers throughout the region’s 16 counties.

Department of Transportation Under Secretary Carlos Monje visited Dallas in January to make the funding announcement.

He said the Biden administration made a commitment to put half a million chargers in the ground by 2030.

“We're gonna beat that by four years. And that's because industry is coming together, local communities are coming together, they want to do this," said Monje. "This money that we're announcing today is an important step in that process.”

The new stations are starting to fill in so-called “charging deserts,” but there are still gaps, said Laurie Pampell Clark. She’s the clean cities director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which is in charge of implementing new EV chargers across the region.

Almost 95,000 people drive EV’s in North Texas, more than any other part of the state — and Clark says the map of infrastructure in the region is quickly changing.

Up until recently, EV drivers could charge their cars in limited spaces, mostly high-income neighborhoods.

“It's started to even out just a little bit as more kind of traditional fuel retailers get into the EV charging game, some of your big convenience store chains have started looking at installing EV charging,” Clark said.

Local governments are also responding to residents’ requests for more EV charging stations. In Dallas and Mesquite, drivers can charge their cars for free at select locations until September.

In Dallas, most of the chargers are clustered in the city’s downtown, with more scattered around the north side of the city. There are virtually no chargers in southeast Dallas.

“That's something that we're we're really engaged with our local governments, in particular, our cities and counties on trying to figure out how we can help solve that,” Clark said.

As the state of EV infrastructure continues to grow rapidly, Clark says that growth needs to include equitable access.

That way, everyone in North Texas who has the option of driving an EV can — no matter where they are.

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.