When I went to the Grand Canyon in 2019 and again in 2021, I was a little surprised at all of the Teslas I saw on US Highway 180 and Arizona Highway 64. While it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions on the planet, it’s still a very rural area and about an hour’s drive away from the nearest interstate.
Getting my LEAF up there was a huge challenge, but for a Tesla, it wasn’t a problem at all. The Flagstaff supercharger opened up in 2014, and they opened up another one in Tusayan (the “gateway community” just outside the park boundaries) in 2019. But, for non-Tesla owners, a decent (read: non-broken) DCFC station only opened up in Flagstaff in 2019, and there’s still nothing but Level 2 charging in and near the park.
This made for a really difficult trip when I took my LEAF in 2019. I had to stay the night at an RV park near the Supercharger in Cordes Junction to get up from Phoenix, which both gave me Level 2 charging and time to cool the battery pack off after that Black Canyon climb. Then, I barely made it to a semi-functional CHAdeMO charger just south of Flagstaff. I only made it back out of the park by using a J1772 plug that accompanied some Tesla Destination Charging stations while I hung out in the park for the day.
But, the days of such foolish adventures in non-Tesla EVs are about to be over.
Since that 2019 trip, things have changed a lot for the better in Arizona. The biggest improvement has come from Electrify America chargers, often placed at Walmart stores along interstate highways. I saw the Anthem and Flagstaff stations under construction in 2019, but it was only a few months later that both of those and a number of others opened for business.
Sadly, that’s about as much progress as we can expect to see for CHAdeMO cars. While there will be the occasional dealer or commercial station with a CHAdeMO port in the future, large-scale buildouts probably won’t add any plugs. Electrify America says it isn’t building any more CHAdeMO stations, and the federal infrastructure bill funding only requires four CCS plugs per station. I doubt the State of Arizona and most other states want to spend any federal funds on CHAdeMO when the feds don’t mandate it.
But for CCS cars, things continue to improve. APS (one of the regional power companies) partnered with Electrify America to put in several more stations outside of the Sun Belt, with the first station opening in Show Low earlier this year. More stations are under construction or planned for Payson, Sedona, Prescott, and Globe.
“While we create pathways to serve our customers with 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, we’re taking steps to help decarbonize the transportation sector and contribute to a cleaner air and energy future for Arizona,” said Daniel Haughton, APS Director of Customer Technology, in a press release. “These ultra-fast vehicle chargers, installed along popular travel corridors in our state, will build range confidence in EV drivers and move us closer to our goal of supporting the adoption of 450,000 EVs in APS service territory by 2030.”
And, this isn’t part of the Infrastructure Bill funds, which will bring even more stations to the state. But, this really brings the state to near where Tesla was in 2019. I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s been a long time since then.
Electrify America Moves From Supporting Interstate & Small Town Travel To Helping Tourism
There’s no arguing that focusing on the interstate highways first wasn’t the right call. With most people living in cities these days, and EV adoption benefiting urban and suburban residents more immediately (the long tailpipe argument), connecting the cities made a lot of sense. That’s what both Tesla and Electrify America focused on first, and it’s what the Infrastructure Bill is going to fund first.
Eventually, though, you have to take care of more EV travel needs than going from city to city. Not only do city slickers like to get off the beaten path sometimes, but there are also a whole lot of us rural hillbillies. Plus, there are electric trucks now, so it’s not only the queer hillbillies like me and retirees from California buying EVs out here in the sticks now (yes, I know these are stereotypes, but if you have a sense of humor, you’ll laugh more instead of crying).
Even people who only drive 20-30 miles in LA or Chicago like to think of all the things they want to do with a car when they buy one. A guy I used to work for in Phoenix says the Grand Canyon attracts a bunch of people who don’t know it’s not really there. The canyon is a big empty space, and all the “stuff” that got washed out is now sitting on California’s beaches. But, any car can go to the beach from LA, even a heavily degraded LEAF. People want to go see the canyon, and they want their expensive EV to be able to take them there.
So, while it’s rare to drive a car of any kind out there to see the void, it’s still an important part of the purchasing decision. Is that perfectly rational? Not at all. But, it’s the reality we face when trying to sell EVs.
Electrify America Quietly Revealed Plans For Its Own Grand Canyon Station
While I can’t find any press releases, I did see a “coming soon” station pop up on Electrify America’s online map and on Plugshare. The marker on the EA map has since disappeared, but from when it was up, there seems to be a plan to install four stalls with two CCS plugs each. The location is going to be at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center near the IMAX theater in Tusayan, just outside the park.
While this may only appear to serve traffic heading into the park and leaving after doing a lot of driving around the park, it’ll help with other tourist sites nearby. Being able to charge up before heading on to places like Lake Powell, Marble Canyon, the North Rim, Navajo country, and southern Utah would all be beneficial for tourism, and EV sales to aspiring tourists.
Featured image provided by Electrify America.
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