When it comes to EV charging, everyone wants someone else to do it. That’s the challenge I’ve seen as I’ve pushed for more EV charging in rural New Mexico. Businesses want a charging company to pay for the station. Charging companies would rather build stations along busy interstate highways, because the chances of a profit are far higher, but even then, they’re very slow to do it. Governments are doing a lot right now with the last of the Dieselgate money and next with federal NEVI funds, but if we can get EVs to sell in great numbers, even that will be a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed.
This leaves EV drivers and people considering buying one in a tight spot. People want the advantages that come with EV ownership, including lower overall costs, fun performance, and less environmental impact. But, they want an EV to be able to go to all of the places their gas-powered car can go, and with today’s infrastructure, that’s not always possible.
The sad truth is that everyone is going to have to build stations. Individual drivers are going to need to pay for the chargers both at the time of charging and via taxes. Businesses are going to need to install charging in many, many cases. Charging companies are also going to have to get away from the most profitable roads with at least some of their stations if they want the ones on the busier roads to be successful long-term.
But right now, it’s always someone else’s job, and that’s the public opinion battle happening in Albuquerque (New Mexico’s largest and arguably most dysfunctional city). The Construction Industries office wants all new developments to include EV charging, including offices, retail stores, and residential developments like apartment complexes, but the companies building these developments are pointing to New Mexico’s 1% EV ownership rate and saying that there’s no demand for these chargers.
But, when KOB went out in the community and asked drivers what they thought about EV charging, they told news crews that the lack of charging is what keeps them from being able to consider an EV.
So, once again, the EV transition is someone else’s job and someone else’s bill. Private developments want government to pay for this instead of giving them an unfunded mandate. Government wants private developments to serve the upcoming needs of their customers by breaking the vicious cycle of “not my job” and making it happen. So, at the end of the day, nothing gets done.
One of the big reasons for this is dishonesty and/or overestimation of costs. I’m honestly not sure which, because sufficiently advanced incompetence is often indistinguishable from malice. Albuquerque’s Chamber of Commerce says that each EV charging stations costs between $7,000 and $18,000, and they’re definitely talking about Level 2 (slow charge) stations. While costs for one station can be that expensive when added to a property, the costs of that wiring can be a lot lower when planned with the rest of construction, or at the very least done before pavement is poured and asphalt laid.
Either way, this is high compared to most estimates I could find, including this one from the AFDC. Getting competitive quotes from multiple electricians and charging providers should result in much lower costs.
The other joker in the deck is politics, as usual. Even in a state that’s dominated by Democrats and a city that’s run by Democrats, things like “EVs are a pipe dream” are said in the news segment. Many people just don’t believe that an EV transition is even possible, especially when one considers the poverty in the state. In reality, EVs can help alleviate some of that poverty via lower transportation costs over time, but as some of our readers’ esteemed Technoking says, “Few understand this.”
The other problem is that the city’s plan could really be too ambitious. More charging stations are definitely needed, and in some ways, it’s really not possible to call for too many. Eventually, the city could ask for every space to have a charger, and they’ll just about all get used. But today, only a few will be used.
To use a children’s shoe analogy, we all know that a kid’s feet will be around the size of one of their parents, but we don’t buy adult shoes to give a kid room to grow. We buy one that is a good enough fit for today’s foot needs with a little room to grow as the kid’s foot grows. Albuquerque may be asking for adult shoes while the developers are asking to cut the kid’s feet off so new shoes won’t be needed.
A 300-unit apartment doesn’t need 60 fully-built commercial stations in Albuquerque in 2023. It also needs more than zero stations, though. A happy medium with a plan for easier growth is likely what’s needed.
If it were up to me, I’d want apartment complexes to have 2-3 commercial spaces, and then wire up one assigned space per unit with a NEMA 14-5o plug (in a pedestal like you’d find at an RV park). If possible, put it on the apartment’s meter, but if not, put it on its own meter for the apartment to add to their electric bill. These pedestals can be locked and/or turned off further up the wire to prevent electricity theft.
This means anybody can buy an EV and use their own EVSE (charging cord) with it. Costs are lowered greatly compared to putting in dozens of commercial stations or being ready for dozens of them. Each household can share the space and take turns pulling cars in and out of it as needed to make sure multiple EVs get a charge as needed. Most new EVs come with a charging cable, so the cost to the EV owner is also minimal.
Having a handful of commercial stations allows guests, new EV owners, and people with a busted EVSE to still have a place to charge while the vast majority can charge their own car in their own space using their own gear.
Obviously, there are many other types of properties that might need different things. For example, a grocery store can’t give everyone a 14-50 plug, but at the same time, a grocery store doesn’t need as many spaces as an apartment, because most charging should be happening at home. A DC fast charger could be more appropriate, too. Employers, on the other hand, should be held to a similar standard as apartments.
At the end of the day, we really need to be focusing on being creative instead of focusing on maximizing one side’s position over others. Finding common ground and a solution everyone can live with is key.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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