Originally Published in The New York Times
By Ivan Penn
June 22, 2019
LOS ANGELES — You’ve heard it many times, from automakers, the energy industry and government officials: Electric vehicles are the cars of the future, essential to the fight against climate change.
Yet that grand vision may founder on something most drivers take for granted: the pit stop.
Most electric cars need to be plugged in after they’ve traveled 200 to 250 miles — a much shorter distance than similarly sized gasoline vehicles can run on a full tank — and charging them can take an hour or more.
What’s more, chargers are often missing in the places where people need them — like the parking lots and garages of apartment buildings, where residents have had to go to great lengths to top up their car batteries, even dangling extension cords from their balconies.
Changing consumer habits is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it is much harder when a new technology makes it less convenient to use something as essential as your car…
EVgo, for example, has put many of its chargers in high-traffic locations, especially in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the company is trying to make sure that people in disadvantaged and rural communities are not left out, said Julie Blunden, an executive vice president.
“We just can’t build fast enough,” Ms. Blunden said. “But there are things to consider. What makes sense? What are the ramifications for urban planning?”
EVgo aims to become profitable by persuading consumers to make public chargers a regular part of their lives. That is partly why the company recently reached a deal to put its chargers at a few Chevron gas stations in California.
Brendan Jones, the chief operating officer of Electrify America, pointed out that the infrastructure for charging was cheaper and easier to build than the large tanks required for gasoline and diesel fuel. His company is trying to make them ubiquitous, believing that the demand will increase to justify the investment.
“I’ve put them everywhere,” Mr. Jones said. “I’ve put them at malls. I’ve put them at Walmarts.”
For their part, property owners say having chargers can help attract customers for other businesses. Macerich, a real estate investment firm that owns the Mall of Victor Valley, said it was adding charging stations at 23 shopping centers.
Some elected leaders have endorsed that “build it and they will come” approach, and are even using taxpayer funds to advance it.
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