Some places are far ahead of others when it comes to DC Fast Charging (DCFC). In California, you almost can’t stick a random pin in a map without it being near a charging station. The same is true for much of the Eastern United States, as well as Europe and even China. Other places, like New Mexico, haven’t been nearly as lucky. Not only are there few EVs, but there are few people in general and many are poor, so nobody has wanted to invest in stations. Much of the state (yes, it’s really part of the United States) is not only a literal desert, but also a charging desert as a result.
The Charging Gap Is Even Worse Than It Looks At First Glance
Keep in mind that this map shows every type of DCFC station, and not all cars can use every station on this map. Even then, it has huge holes that are difficult to cross in most EVs. What makes this worse is that there are large mountain ranges and chains of ranges in these gaps. Crossing the Gila Wilderness in western New Mexico, with numerous climbs and valleys, and going across the big gap diagonally no less, isn’t impossible, but taking something like my 2018 LEAF wasn’t easy at all.
Much of eastern New Mexico is covered in plains (the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains), but there are two big obstacles to cross if you want to get from someplace like Roswell to the I-25 corridor in the center of the state (and that’s assuming you’re not an alien with a busted hyperdrive or something).
First, you’ll encounter the chain of mountain ranges extends from the Mexican border, through the Guadalupe Mountains National Park along the Texas/New Mexico state line (Texas’ tallest mountain is here), and up as far north as Corona, NM. Not only does this make getting across the south and central parts of New Mexico challenging, but it makes traveling out of El Paso difficult for EVs, as you have a hefty climb between El Paso and Van Horn without so much as an RV park in between that you can charge at.
If you get across that chain of mountains without running out of charge (which is likely, as there are currently no DCFC stations out that way between I-10 and I-40), you take a steep drop into the Tularosa Basin or onto the Otero Mesa. Sure, dropping from a high mountain town like Cloudcroft to a desert town like Alamogordo can give you some energy back from regenerative braking, but in my experience, that’s only going to give you 5-10% back of the battery you heavily depleted.
The Tularosa Basin and Otero Mesa both have amazing scenery, especially if you’re new to the desert. There are jagged desert peaks, the newly-minted White Sands National Park, and lots of flat dune-ridden landscape. Much of this was formed by a very ancient lake that covered much of the region, and drained violently a couple million years ago, much like the younger Lake Bonneville (the Great Salt Lake is a remnant of that pluvial lake). There are also volcanic fields, large grasslands with imported African animals, a missile testing range where the first nuclear bomb was tested, and even Jeff Bezos’ launch site.
While you’re crossing all this beautiful scenery from east to west, there’s a problem you might not notice if you let it distract you: your battery is running out along a highway where everyone goes 80-90 MPH, and you’re heading toward the next mountain range. Many ICE drivers have to slow down going through places like San Augustin Pass to avoid throwing a rod, but a smart EV driver will have to slow down even more to avoid getting stranded because there aren’t even charging stations on the other side of those mountains, unless you have a few hours to burn doing Level 2.
So yeah, what looks like relatively minor gaps in charging infrastructure on a full map of the US is in reality a great unforgiving slayer of EV battery packs.
Dieselgate Funds Are About To Help Immensely
The good news is that, at least for eastern New Mexico, this is about to change a LOT.
One of the United States biggest charging deserts is about to get some rain. As you can see on the map above, most of the larger towns in the area are getting some DCFC love, and it’s all courtesy of Volkswagen Dieselgate funds. Most of the state’s non-Tesla DCFC stations were already built by Electrify America, another part of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate penance, but the company also ended up owing the states a bunch of money in the settlement. New Mexico then spent a good chunk of these funds on EV charging stations.
You can see a list of the funded projects here.
Most of the new stations are going to be built by Francis Energy and hosted by Allsup’s convenience stores around the state. Not only is this good news for people who love Allsup’s burritos (yes, they’re probably not great for your health, but they’re so good!), but the chain’s geographic spread across much of the state made them an ideal partner for hosting DCFC stations.
While EV travel across the region in any direction will be greatly aided by these new stations, one important thing to note is that the highway backbone for the region will now mostly be covered. US Route 285 starts in Colorado, but from Santa Fe to Pecos, it’s the main four-lane highway people use to get around, connecting the region to major interstates and connecting the largest towns together.
One other important thing to note is that there will be CCS charging (and possibly CHAdeMO, but I can’t get confirmation on that) in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (a town that’s actually named after a game show, sorry Doctor Who fans). Tesla drivers who’ve been through here know that the “T or C” charger is a vital link to getting from Las Cruces to Albuquerque, and it has been the only station along the southern end of I-25 for quite a while. Once that station is fully operational, it will be a lot easier for other manufacturers’ cars to cross the state.
In another article that’s sort of a Part 2 to this one, I’m going to cover some of the big charging gaps that still need to be addressed in New Mexico and neighboring states.
Featured image: Screenshot from Plugshare.com showing a cross-section of upcoming stations in eastern New Mexico.
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