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By Joshua Wood, Cowboy State Daily
Not so fast!
Electric vehicles are becoming more common among the 13,000 vehicles driving through Wyoming each day on Interstate 80. But EV drivers in the state face a challenge here they may not in other places – a lack of charging stations.
This and other obstacles has led some to believe it will be a while before EVs in Wyoming are the norm. Others in the automotive industry say tourism will drive EV popularity in the state sooner than one might think.
Driven by Tourism
“Tourists will be the main driving force behind Wyoming’s electric vehicle adoption and if we don’t keep up with the demand for charging, tourists will go elsewhere with their dollars,” said Aaron Turpen, a longtime automotive writer for CarTalk who lives in Cheyenne.
The percentage of electric vehicles making up new car sales is increasing in neighboring states, said Turpen. In Colorado, EV sales are nearing 9% while Utah is around 4%. Drivers in those states often like to take roads trips in Wyoming, Turpen said.
“The rest of our road trippers come primarily from California, whose sales rate for electric vehicles is about 16% of new car sales,” said Turpen. “We’ll see several states meeting or beating a 25% rate in the next decade and places like California nearing or beating 50%.”
Patrick Lawson, owner of Wild West EV, said Wyoming’s adoption of electric vehicles is just a matter of time. Wild West EV is a Wyoming-based electric charging station company with stations in Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Hudson and Cody.
“The easier it is for people in electric vehicles to go through Wyoming, they’ll take that route. Where the chargers are, that’s where the tourists are going to go,” said Lawson. “They pretty much already got the interstate either covered or going to be covered depending on what you drive.”
Long Road Ahead
Longtime automotive publisher Vince Bodiford, who also lives in Cheyenne, says ‘pump your brakes.’ He said there’s still a long way to go for electric vehicles to be a road-tripping vehicle.
“Most electric vehicles never leave their home base of 40 or 50 miles. They’re largely commuter vehicles and they’re not the most advantageous vehicles to use for a long road trip,” said Bodiford, who now publishes the popular car enthusiast site ‘The Weekend Drive.’
“There’s a lot of work to do in the long-haul, long-distance road trip idea of an electric vehicle,” he said.
The number of electric vehicles in rental fleets, however, is beginning to climb, said Bodiford.
“We already know that a large percentage of people who come to Wyoming as tourists fly into Denver, rent a car and then drive up to the National Parks,” said Bodiford. “The knowledge, knowing that they’d be able to charge those cars, might be an incentive for them to rent an electric car if they were coming to Wyoming.”
Bodiford said there are two major hurdles in the possibility of tourism further driving Wyoming’s adoption of electric vehicles. One of those is the time it takes to charge the vehicles.
“If you’re a tourist, you’re on limited time. My 4XE Jeep takes up to 12 hours to charge on one of those chargers. Now, it’ll charge three hours on my rapid charger,” said Bodiford. “Do I really want to sit someplace for 12 hours waiting for my electric car to charge?”
According to Lawson, advancements with electric vehicles are reducing charge times and distances between charges.
In fact, while chatting with Cowboy State Daily, Lawson had pulled in to a charging station in Broomfield, Colorado driving a Rivian, which he said could go 350 miles between charges.
Rivian, or Rivian Automotive, is an American electric vehicle company founded in 2009. The company has built electric sport utility vehicles and electric trucks. The R1T truck is available in the high $60,000 range and the R1S SUV is in the low $70,000 range.
The total amount of time Lawson said he would be charging was 15 minutes. In comparison with conventional vehicles, he said this was somewhere between filling up the tank and topping it off.
Another major hurdle for electric vehicles, said Bodiford, is that not all charging stations are universal. Tesla Chargers, for example, will only charge Teslas. Other chargers can work with a Tesla, provided the driver or the station has an adapter.
“Imagine if you rented a car at the airport in Denver and they said ‘Well, in not all gas stations will the nozzle fit in the car. You may have to get an adapter for the nozzle to fit and 1-in-10 gas stations will the nozzle even fit’,” said Bodiford. “That’s kind of ridiculous and that’s where we are right now with the electric cars.”
Charging In Unlikely Places
Yet, electric vehicles are making their way into and through Wyoming. Even in places such as Carbon County, population 15,000.
According to Liberty Access Technologies, there is one public charging station—a Tesla Supercharger—located in Rawlins at the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Destini Vince, an employee at the hotel, told Cowboy State Daily it gets used “all day, every day.”
The cost for use of the charger is $0.28 per kilowatt hour. Additional charges include $0.13 per minute at or below 60 kilowatts and $0.26 per minute above 60 kilowatts.
Neither Turpen nor Bodiford find this surprising.
“Rawlins is centrally located for going across I-80, so I’m not surprised it has a busy charging station,” said Turpen.
Bodiford said if it was the only charging station in Rawlins, it would make sense that it was busy. According to Leslie Jefferson, CEO of the Carbon County Visitors Council, there are now at least two public charging stations in Rawlins that she knows of.
City Market recently installed a station as well. A representative of the store told Cowboy State Daily the charging station was not yet up and running.
In Saratoga, one hotel lists a charging station as an amenity. Copperline Lodge, owned by Dan Pont, offers a JuiceBox Pro 40 free to guests. Visitors are charged a flat $10. Jennifer Standard, an employee of Copperline Lodge, said the charger is used once or twice a week.
The Carbon County Visitors Council is not only accepting of the charging stations, said Jefferson, but would like to see more in the area. In places where a charging station may not be found, drivers are resourceful.
Lee Ann Stephenson, co-owner of Lazy Acres RV Park in Riverside, said guests have charged their electric vehicles using RV hookups and adapters.
Lawson said this is common. He told Cowboy State Daily he did the same thing with his first Tesla in 2014.
Stephenson said while her business doesn’t have charging stations now, they’d eventually like to get one.
Lawson said if more rural destinations want to attract tourists, they’ll install charging stations.
“The off-beaten paths that aren’t on the Interstate are going to have to get chargers in if they want people to go there,” said Lawson.
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