Electric vehicles are increasingly common in Austin. But which models are most popular?
Although it may seem like Tesla is a shoo-in for the top spot, with its hood ornaments ubiquitous along Lamar Boulevard and Gigafactory sprouting up in Southeast Travis County, the most popular electric vehicle in Austin is the 100% electric Nissan LEAF, which starts at $32,620, according to an iSeeCars analysis of used car sales between July 2020 and last month. (Tesla doesn't report new sales by location, so used car sales are used as a proxy for overall popularity.)
Tesla's Model 3, Model S and Model X come in second, fourth and fifth place, respectively, and collectively account for around one-third of electric vehicles in Austin, despite their higher price points and relative newness on the market. (The Model 3 starts at $38,690, whereas the luxury Models S and X cost more than twice as much.)
Karl Brauer, iSeeCars executive analyst, said the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Bolt are relatively affordable electric vehicles, which is a big part of their appeal. "Price, of course, for any consumer buying a car is always the single most important factor," he said.
Teslas, on the other hand, are more expensive. Although the Model 3 debuted seven years after the Nissan LEAF, it has quickly gained market share among more luxury consumers, which Brauer said is "pretty telling."
The forthcoming Tesla Gigafactory in southeast Travis County may also spur more consumer interest in Tesla models, as Austinites choose to support businesses with a local presence.
Despite its liberal reputation and eco-friendly policy aims, Austin has fewer electric vehicles than other large Texas metros, according to iSeeCars. The share of electric vehicles—0.3%—also falls slightly below the overall Texas average of 0.4%.
But electric vehicles are increasingly popular. More than 3,400 drivers subscribed to Austin' Energy's Plug-In EVerywhere service, a network of more than 1,000 charging ports, as of last month, according to the utility's latest quarterly report.
This represents a nearly 11% increase from 2020 and a substantial change over the last decade.
Wider adoption seems likely. More car manufacturers, including Mercedes Benz, are announcing plans to shift toward entirely electric fleets, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the company will debut an affordable, $25,000 model within the next few years.
There are also financial incentives prompting buyers to make the switch, including federal tax credits, a home charging station rebate and more affordable "fuel" costs, according to Austin Energy. A Plug-In EVerywhere subscription costs $4.17 a month, compared to $2.83 state average for a gallon of gas.
In addition to increasing access and affordability, buyers may be motivated by concerns about climate change. During the catastrophic winter storm in February, Texans used their electric vehicles to warm up safely and charge their phones and other devices, and Ford saw an uptick in demand for their F-150 hybrid because of its onboard generator.
Electric vehicles are gaining momentum as their share of total car sales increase. "It's definitely growing," Brauer said.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.