High power EV chargers needed to keep keep tourists coming

Skagit Valley clean energy cooperative

 

November 1, 2023



Last week I talked about electric vehicle chargers in rural British Columbia. Charger availability there is still improving. Flo.com’s map shows that the charger in Woss, BC (population about 200), has been upgraded since Jenelle and I traveled there about a year ago. Woss now has a Level 3 (fast, 50 kilowatt) charger, with two Level 3 plugs. It’s about 40 miles from the nearest larger town, Port McNeill (population about 2,000). Port McNeill also has a public Level 3 charger.

For reference, Level 3 chargers have a charging rate of at least 25 kilowatt-hours/hour, but usually 50 or more. They can charge an EV battery from empty to full in an hour or two, depending on the specific charger and EV. Level 2 chargers are slower –around 4-7 kilowatt-hours/hour – but even they fully charge an EV overnight. Level 2 chargers can be public or private. We have one in our garage.

La Conner and the Swinomish Reservation have six public Level 2 chargers – two at Pier 7, two behind the library, and two across the street from the Swinomish Market. There are several Level 2 chargers at the Swinomish Casino. La Conner doesn’t have a Level 3 charger.

It’s easy to drive an EV to La Conner on a side trip to another destination if you know you can plug it in briefly and “fill the tank” while you’re shopping here, If you are staying overnight, you don’t need a fast charger. However, for overnight visitors, as EV market share increases, it would be desirable for La Conner to add more Level 2 chargers, either at public or lodging locations. More and better chargers make it possible for EV owners to stay here without thinking about charging.

EV battery ranges are fast improving. The most expensive EVs can now travel as far as gasoline cars between “fills.” It won’t take much longer for range parity to reach lower-cost EVs. EV prices will continue to come down, too. With the exception of the motive force components, EVs are mostly the same as internal combustion engine vehicles. As EV components and batteries continue to benefit from both mass production and R&D on lower-cost materials, costs will fall further. First-cost parity is probably only about five years away. As I’ve explained before, total cost of ownership is already at parity over 10 years if gasoline averages more than $4.50 a gallon.

Internal combustion engine vehicles aren’t going to disappear overnight, but their market share is diminishing. The transition to electric vehicles is happening fast. About 6% of new cars sold here are electric – up from roughly zero ten years ago. That’s comparable to the amount of time it took for personal computers to reach 6% of U.S. households. Over the next ten years, computers reached about half of households. It’s likely that EV adoption will continue to accelerate. They may even get to 50% market share faster than personal computers did.

Even when EVs reach parity with ICE ranges, people will still want to have the convenience of charging while shopping and lodging overnight.

Being without adequate charging infrastructure is somewhat like being in the middle of the transition from U.S. highways to interstate highways without an interstate exit.

 

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