No wonder Elon Musk apparently feels at home in the Austin area.
More electric vehicles are owned in Travis County than in any other county in Texas, according to state registration data compiled by clean-energy advocates — and the bulk of them are made by Tesla, the company Musk leads and relocated here from California.
Just over 18,000 electric vehicles of all types were registered in Travis County through April 12, the figures show, including vehicles powered solely by rechargeable batteries as well as plug-in hybrids that rely partly on gasoline.
That’s more than the 17,300 electric vehicles registered in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, and about 13,350 in Dallas County, even though both metro areas have significantly larger populations and total numbers of registered vehicles than does Travis County.
Tesla’s new factory in southeastern Travis County only recently went into production, so the vast majority of Tesla vehicles currently operating in the United States — including in Texas and the Austin area — were built at the company’s California plant. Tesla also has vehicle factories in Germany and China.
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Demand on the rise
Statewide, about 121,500 electric vehicles have been registered — equating to just 0.5% of all 23.68 million vehicles in Texas. As with the raw numbers, Travis County leads the state in terms of its proportion of electric vehicles, at 1.8% of the total registered here.
While both percentages are small, demand for electric vehicles is expected to grow substantially because the technology is becoming less expensive and more charging stations are being put in place. As a result, conventional automakers have been attempting to catch up to Tesla and other electric-vehicle manufacturers by adding electric-powered models to their lineups — including pickups — and advertising them heavily.
In Texas, clean-energy proponents and Tesla enthusiasts say it’s no surprise that residents of the Austin area are on the vanguard of electric-vehicle adoption, given the region’s tradition of environmental advocacy and its big high-tech workforce that is supportive of innovation.
“All my clients moving here work in tech, (and) they either have a Tesla or have one on order,” said Matt Holm, a local real estate agent who heads the Tesla Owners Club of Austin. “It’s not a car — you are basically driving a computer that continues to get software updates and get better as you go.”
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In addition to Travis County, Williamson County has a notable level of electric-vehicle ownership as well, according to the data. Williamson County is No. 8 statewide, with nearly 6,000 registrations, and it’s No. 3 on a percentage basis, at 1.2% of its total registrations.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition compiled the figures, using information from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
According to the organization’s most-recent data, about 57% of the estimated 18,000 electric vehicles registered in Travis County — or about 10,300 — are various Tesla models. The percentage is about the same in Williamson County and statewide.
Registrations of electric-powered Chevrolets are in second place, both locally and statewide.
Musk announced late last year that he had moved Tesla’s headquarters to Austin, after the company began construction in the summer of 2020 on its $1.1 billion electric-vehicle factory in southeastern Travis County.
This month, Tesla held an invitation-only, grand-opening bash at the new factory, which the company calls a “Gigafactory.” Up to 15,000 people attended, with attractions that included live music, carnival games, a mechanical bull and even a petting zoo.
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‘Fits our character’
The local hoopla surrounding Tesla’s grand opening event was significant, but the most tangible evidence of the region’s support for the company and for other makers of electric vehicles is in demand for their products. Experts say ownership of electric vehicles is poised to rise substantially statewide, with the Austin area continuing to pave the way.
“It certainly fits our character,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of the advocacy group Environment Texas. “Austin is known for being green and for being a leader on clean energy.”
Metzger said the region’s receptiveness to clean-energy initiatives and new technology in general is probably one of the things that Musk liked about the area when he selected it for the new Tesla factory — in addition to the tax breaks the company received and the relatively low overall cost of doing business in Texas compared to many other states
“The whole reputation of Austin probably had a lot to do with it, including it being just a cool place to live and work and attract employees,” he said. “And it being cool is partly because of our leadership on the environment.”
Musk has previously said that one of the reasons he selected the Travis County site is because he asked some of his top employees where they would want to live aside from California, “and Austin was just the No. 1 choice.”
Since then, Musk — the wealthiest person in the world — has made the region a key location for many of his operations.
They include the Boring Co., Musk’s tunneling company, which has had a presence here since 2020 and has purchased land in Bastrop County. Neuralink, Musk’s neurotechnology company, has posted openings for Austin-area jobs, while his private Foundation, called the Musk Foundation, moved to Austin about two years ago.