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In Arkansas, EVs Climb Uphill Road

3 min read

From Walmart Inc. to vehicle registration offices to the Tesla Supercharger on Bass Pro Parkway in Little Rock, an electric vehicle future seems to be staring Arkansans in the face.

But for now, the gasless carriages have a long way to go.

Walmart, of Bentonville, is planning to put four fast-charging EV stations at each of its Walmart, Neighborhood Market and Sam’s Club stores in the country, more than 5,300 locations.

The Biden administration is pushing new anti-pollution rules that would lead to 65% or more of the vehicles sold domestically to be electric by 2032. That proposal has upset Arkansas’ GOP congressional delegation, and 1st District Rep. Rick Crawford declared in a news release that EVs “remain substantially a California phenomenon.”

With 12% of the national population, Californians own 39% of the country’s electric vehicles.

And since EVs cost substantially more than conventional cars, Crawford said, “this latest Democrats-know-best mandate is bad news for middle-class families.”

EV and hybrid vehicle registrations have surged in Arkansas during the past 16 months. Yet they are still a tiny fraction of the 2.75 million trucks, cars and SUVs on file with the state Department of Finance & Administration.

“There were 24,912 electric and hybrid vehicles in Arkansas on Jan. 1, 2022,” spokesman Scott Hardin told Arkansas Business, including 2,094 fully electric vehicles. “Today that total has increased by almost 11,000 to 35,655,” of which 3,588 are fully electric and 32,067 are hybrid, he said.

Hardin said electric and hybrid registrations surge with rising gasoline prices; when gas prices fall, “we see registrations of larger SUVs and trucks increase.”

The Ford F-150 is Arkansas’ favorite vehicle, followed by the Chevy Silverado and the GMC Sierra. Arkansans pay a $200 fee for registering a fully electric car, $100 for a plug-in hybrid and $50 for a regular hybrid. Tesla is by far the most common fully electric vehicle in Arkansas. Hardin said 3,200 of the 3,588 registered EVs here are Teslas; he didn’t have registration data on Ford’s new electric F-150.

Collin Riggin, partner in Evolve Auto LLC of North Little Rock, reports that sales of used Teslas have been steady, even though the market hasn’t fully recovered from last year’s leap in interest rates. He said sales to in-state customers have soared. “In 2020 we were close to 75% out-of-state sales while 2022 was closer to the exact opposite with 75% being in-state sales.”

His dealership on West Broadway in North Little Rock has seen demand grow in the metro area and suburbs. “We’ve got EV buyers from Conway to Hot Springs, to Searcy, down to Pine Bluff and even Stuttgart.”

“You can also see the uptick in EVs based on supercharger usage at the Tesla Supercharger in Little Rock, which is getting busier and busier,” Riggin said. “Tesla has been scouting additional locations in the state for more of their own charging locations.”

The Walmart and Tesla efforts, along with money from the Inflation Reduction Act thrown into the pot, have Riggin thinking Arkansas will soon be catching up to the rest of the country in EV charging infrastructure.

Riggin also said that as new EV sales rise, so do his used car sales. “New EV sales consistently add more affordable used EVs to the market as they get sold or traded off,” he said. “And after the vehicle value crash of last year, we’re seeing a tremendous increase in EV inquiries now that used are so much more affordable. Prices on used Teslas alone dropped 20% to 40% depending on the model. Tax credits on new domestic-brand EVs are doing the same for new models.”

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