AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As gas prices continue to hit record-level highs, the demand for electric vehicles is expanding. AutoPacific forecasts electric car sales will be about 37% higher in 2022 than in 2021. Now, Texas will receive millions in federal aid to build a statewide electric charging system. 

At the Austin Auto Show on Friday, car lovers were excited to get a sneak peek at new electric models. A spokesperson for the event said this year marked the most electric vehicles ever showcased.

“They were only going to do 6,000 models,” sales consultant Kris Tippens said about Subaru’s first electric model. “They sold out in 12 minutes.”

According to the White House, the U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. President Joe Biden has said he wants America to be a leader on that front.

“I think that us being a leader in the world is highlighted when we move to these types of vehicles,” Tippens said. “It says that we as a country are moving in a direction that’s going to be better.”

The Biden administration’s infrastructure bill has dedicated $7.5 billion to build the country’s first nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers. Over the next five years, Texas will receive $408 million to strengthen its own network.

“We will be starting to build electric vehicle chargers, like this one every 50 miles,” said Texas Electric Transportation Electrification director Tom “Smitty” Smith. “The state now is developing a plan that might put them in every county seat.”

Most charging stations are concentrated in major cities like Dallas, Austin and Houston. Austin is home to over 1,000 electric charging stations, according to Austin Energy.

“Austin’s unique, because we have a very large infrastructure for electric vehicles, lots of fast-charging stations,” Tippen said. “So we’re one of those prime markets for electric vehicles.”

But driving electric is less feasible for those in the rural parts of the state, like East Texas, where vast gaps between charging stations exist.

“Half the money will go to providing charging infrastructure in rural areas,” Smith said. “We, people in rural areas, can take advantage of the electric vehicle revolution, just like people in the cities.”

In March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure all Texans can easily access electric charging stations.

“Additionally, I direct TxDOT and stakeholders to include in the plan a way for Texans to easily get from Beaumont to El Paso and Texline to Brownsville in an EV — with a focus on rural placement and connectivity,” Abbott said.

Smith said as most charging stations are in wealthier parts of Austin, expanding access will help not only the city’s environment but affordability crisis.

“Electric vehicles can really help low-income people and young people starting out to be able to operate a car at about 40% of the cost,” Smith said. “That’s an enormous way of saving money that enables them to stretch their budgets in our economy here in Austin.”

TxDOT must submit its infrastructure plans by August and will be eligible to receive funding after September if the Federal Highway Administration accepts.

Residents can suggest new charging sites and give feedback through the department’s interactive map and survey.