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The most popular electric vehicle in Austin isn't a Tesla, as Giga Texas roars to life

The Nissan LEAF is the most popular EV in Austin based on used car sales. (Nissan)

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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