Texas Slaps Down Tesla Fast Charger Plan

Texas is a walled garden of bigotry and hatred. It prides itself on telling people what they can and cannot think, say, or do in the name of freedom. For instance, it is so intent on avoiding federal regulations, it has built an entire electrical grid that is walled off from the rest of the nation. Then when the grid fails due to severe weather, it blames the federal government.

No wonder Elon Musk likes the state so much he moved Tesla headquarters there to escape the tyranny rampant in California. He chose a state that won’t even let it sell its cars to Texans in Tesla stores — but there’s a certain freedom that comes with being a dictator. For one thing, you never have to say you’re sorry. If Texas makes it a crime for anyone within its borders to suggest people should sell their investments in oil and gas companies, that’s the kind of free speech that warms the cockles of Elon’s heart.

Recently, the Lone Star State put up $21 million to encourage freedom-loving folks to install DC fast chargers along its roadways so that EV drivers won’t be scared to drive further than the end of their driveways. The grants were funded by the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Program, so it appears the source of the funds — or at least the majority of the money — came from Volkswagen as part of its Dieselgate settlement.

The deal was, the chargers had to be accessible to all EV drivers. At the present time, Tesla Superchargers are only available to Tesla drivers, but the company submitted applications anyway with the understanding that, if approved, the new chargers installed with the grant money would meet all the requirements listed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. That is, the new Tesla chargers would have a CCS or CHAdeMO plug as well.

The rules stated the first to apply would be the first to get funded. Apparently, no evaluation of the proposals was included to see that the money was spent wisely. Tesla asked for between $30,000 and $50,000 per charger. Most of the winning submissions asked for the maximum allowed of $150,000 per charger. The result, according to Forbes, is Texas will get 170 new chargers located mostly at existing gas stations. Had the Tesla plan been adopted, it would have gotten 700 new fast chargers located in places where people had restaurants and shopping opportunities while they waited for their cars to recharge.

ChargePoint and EVgo — major, popular fast charging networks — also were denied grant money, which makes one think possibly the fix was in on this boondoggle. Friends of the governor found out about the program before everyone else did. “Texas appears to have selected the most expensive stations in the worst locations for their money,” Forbes says.

To make matters worse, the new stations will only be able to service 30% of the electric cars on the road, since 70% of all electric cars in Texas at the moment are Teslas. Tesla drivers can use an adapter to plug in at a CCS charger — for the extra cost of one of those adapters — but that adapter isn’t even currently in the Tesla store. These new stations lack requirements for plug & charge capability and are not bound to any specifics regarding reliability. Tesla owners are far more likely to prefer the convenience of the now familiar Supercharger network where the chargers are always clean, operational, and make paying for the electricity used is a seamless process. Superchargers are also incorporated into the Tesla navigation system, planning your trip for you no matter how far you travel.

Since the funds were awarded on a first come, first served basis, a favored few were apparently ready to submit their bids seconds after the process began and before anyone else even knew about it. Freedom means being able to reward your friends so they will make generous campaign contributions later. In Texas, freedom and corruption are synonymous.

Tesla Superchargers For All

That Tesla applied for these funds at all is another sign that it is considering opening its Supercharger network to all EV drivers in the US — it has already begun doing so in Europe. There is an ongoing debate over whether Tesla’s charging system is technically superior to CCS, which reminds many people of the great Betamax vs VHS battles of 40 years ago. Sony’s Betamax was clearly superior to VHS but lost out in the marketplace.

Assuming the Supercharger network is superior, so what? Throughout history, common standards have driven the adoption of new technology faster than superior technology. If the goal is to get more EVs on the road faster, let’s put our Mr. Wizard egos in our pocket and get on with the job. Not one driver in a hundred knows the difference or cares. All that matters is that the charging experience be convenient, pleasant, and stress free.

The big concern for Tesla is that its owners not have to wait in line to charge. Its proposals were for charging stations that had either 9 or 17 chargers. For the winning bids, the number of charges was never more than 6 and frequently as low as 2. Is there a way Tesla can make its chargers available to all drivers while still making sure its owners don’t have to wait in line? That’s a tricky question that becomes particularly important where public funds are involved.

Can Tesla owners be charged one price and drivers of other EVs another? Can Tesla owners be given priority access to chargers without some good ol’ boy in a Hummer EV dragging out a gun to settle the matter Texas style? These are not idle concerns. As Lynyrd Skynyrd says, “And I’m telling you, son, well, it ain’t no fun, staring straight down a forty-four.”

The Takeaway

In the final analysis, it appears the great state of Texas had some cashola from Volkswagen it had to get rid of as fast and as quietly as possible, so the word went out to the Friends of Greg Abbott to get those applications in early, even if you don’t know a fast charger from an oil derrick.

Tesla made a good faith effort to give the people of Texas the most value for their money but got rejected because, well, gosh darn it, some other fellers got there first, and so what choice did we have? We had to give them the money even though it’s a really dumb idea to let some yahoo with a convenience store install a charger or two around back where no one can see it. “Freedom” and “brains”are both in short supply down there in the Oil Patch.

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