If you’ve been watching the rollout of EV charging in the United States over the last 7 years, it’s been a long and slow process. Tesla’s supercharger network got not only a head start, but was built using a coherent plan to provide vehicles maximum range coverage. The charging for other EVs using CCS and CHAdeMO was a lot more haphazard, with no overall planning until around 2019 and stubbornly persistent gaps that persist today even along interstates.
That’s why today’s news of a new interstate highway in Arizona is a bit of a rug-pull. Just when we’re seeing Electrify America start to plug most of the gaps and a new infrastructure bill promises to provide funding for thousands more, the basic goalpost of covering all interstates has now been moved a little further away. Sure, we’ve known for years that a future Interstate 11 was going to run from Nogales to Las Vegas, and maybe on to Reno eventually, but we only found out today what the highway’s final route is going to be.
But, I’ve always liked to think of problems as opportunities in work clothes. Whoever is going to cover Interstate 11 has the opportunity to not only be the only girl in town for many EV drivers, but also has the opportunity to get EV drivers in the habit of using their stations before the competition has a chance to show up.
Even better, if you work for an EV charging company, I’m going to do some of the hard planning work for you right here, but jump on it fast before someone else does!
From Nevada to Almost Wickenburg (Present US-93)
From the Nevada state line to almost Wickenburg, the route for I-11 has already been known for years. It’s going to basically follow today’s US-93 from the Nevada state line to almost Wickenburg. Some sections of the road will need to be upgraded to 4-lane interstate specifications, but the route won’t change. This means that for this section, you can safely install stations and know that they’ll serve the interstate as it grows on to Reno and eventually the Canadian border.
Between Henderson and Kingman and between Kingman and the Wickenburg turnoff, two more stations are needed. The Chevron station at Dolan Springs would be a great place to put one of them, and the Wikieup Trading Post or one of the other gas stations in Wikieup would be a great place for the second station. That would get nearly any EV from Vegas to Phoenix.
New Road to Casa Grande
Once I-11 leaves today’s US-93 corridor, things get a lot more complicated. It blazes an entirely new trail from US-93 down to I-8, and then takes a new route to Casa Grande.
For starters, you need the turnoff from today’s US-93 to the new I-11 to have a charging station so people don’t have to drive to Wickenburg and then backtrack. This turnoff is supposed to happen between mile marker 185 and 190 on US-93. The only suitable place for a charging station is at an exit at mile marker 182, but there are only abandoned properties there. A new charging station with a convenience store and/or restaurant will be needed. I’d recommend trying to partner with QuikTrip because they have their crap together.
The next place that’s going to need charging is along I-10. I-11 is going to join I-10 at about mile marker 100, and continue to mile marker 112, where the AZ-85 turnoff is. There’s already an Electrify America station four miles further into Phoenix, but once again, it’s best to avoid making people drive an extra 8 miles just to charge if they’re going along I-11. The best spot for this is going to be a TA truck stop at I-10 exit 103. There’s not only a convenience store, but a restaurant and other amenities.
The next stretch is pretty barren. There’s almost nothing along AZ-85, and the route goes through mostly vacant land until Maricopa. The good news? After about 70 miles, it goes right next to the Nissan proving grounds, where they currently have a CHAdeMO charger, but not a CCS charger. It would be a good idea to get Nissan to put in a couple stations for people to publicly use in case they can’t make it to Casa Grande.
While there are charging stations in Casa Grande, the I-11 route avoids them. Once again, it would be a good idea to put a station along where I-11 and I-8 will be sharing the road. Exits 169 and 172 should both remain unchanged during the construction of I-11, and would be a great place to locate a convenience store and EV charging. Once again, I’d recommend working with QuikTrip on this, because they have decent stores that would serve the needs of EV drivers well.
Casa Grande to I-19
From this point, the I-11 route is really going to parallel I-10 until Tucson, and EV drivers can mostly stick to I-10 for now. I-11 is mainly going on new land, so it’s not really possible to get your foot in the door on charging station deals along the corridor except where it has a stub to meet I-10 at Red Rock. There’s a bar at I-10 exit 226 that could use charging so people don’t have to back track when leaving I-10 to go to Maricopa on I-11.
Another good spot to get the drop on the competition would be to purchase land near mile marker 156 on AZ-86 for a convenience store and charging station. You probably don’t want to build the actual station and store until I-11 gets closer to getting put in, but you’d be the only services for gas or electric vehicles along that stretch of I-11 from Red Rock to where it meets present I-19.
The Final Stretch to Nogales
I-11 is going to meet I-19 near kilometer marker 73. Yes, that’s right. I said kilometer marker. Interstate 19 is the only metric interstate in the United States.
From there to Mexico, there are no EV charging stations. It would be wise to put one station at exit 69, and there are a number of businesses to choose from at that exit. This would serve traffic along I-19 and the future I-11 equally well, so you’re doubling up on traffic regardless of whether the EV driver chooses to bypass Tucson or not.
Finally, Nogales needs an EV charging station. Plenty of places to partner with there already, so that shouldn’t be terribly difficult.
Not A Huge Deal, But Worth It To Get A Jump On The Competition
In total, we’re talking about 10 stations to give the future Interstate 11 excellent EV charging coverage. A number of these stations are on current interstates, so you can start having charging customers immediately. Others would be based on I-11’s future traffic, so they can probably wait.
Perhaps most importantly, I-19 is a whole interstate that isn’t being served right now. Covering it not only gives you an edge on the future, but makes you the only people to do business with today.
One last thing: be sure to check the comments below. I’m sure our readers will give EV charging companies even more insight on where to put these stations!
Featured image: Screenshot from ADOT showing the route of I-11 pass Nissan’s proving grounds in Maricopa, Arizona (public domain)
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