One key to getting more EVs on the road is to make more chargers available in public places.
And, of course, getting more chargers out there might help boost EV sales.
When asked to think about public charging stations, most folks would probably think about the Northeast or California. But at least one utility in the Midwest is working to build up its own charger network.
Kansas City Power and Light launched a $20 million program two years ago to install 1,000 charging stations in an area that serves over 800,000 customers. The stations are free and are expected to remain so through this summer.
The Clean Charge Stations are being installed at apartment complexes, grocery stores, gas stations and other public places – even sports stadiums.
Kansas City-area officials are touting the program as a way to boost EV sales in an area that until recently was home to only a few hundred EVs.
“There’s a little movement afoot here in the middle of flyover country,” Chuck Caisley, KCP&L’s vice president for marketing and public affairs, told NPR. “We’re awfully excited about the prospect of this kind of transportation, and so we wanted to be catalytic to that.”
KCP&L get something out of it besides the promotion of cleaner air – the company can also sell more electricity without building more plants. The grid is underutilized 80 percent of the time, according to the company, so this could actually help drive down costs – and customers’ bills.
“When you turn on an additional TV in your home, that’s not enough to change that equation,” Caisley said to NPR. “But when you talk about a segment [the auto industry] that’s as much as 25 to 30 percent of the entire economy, and electrifying it, you’re talking about a significant amount of increased electricity use, which means we’re now using that infrastructure that customers have paid for so much more efficiently.”
There has been a setback – KCP&L didn’t get regulatory approval from Kansas (neighboring Missouri has yet to rule) to add a fee of two or three cents to consumers’ bills to pay for the program. But the investor-owned utility went ahead anyway.
So far, 850 units out of the planned 1,000 have been installed and there are tentative plans to install more-expensive fast chargers along highway corridors for use by road-tripping EV drivers.