Bringing an Electric Future to Rural America

Everyone knows EVs abound in major cities like NYC, and in ones with warmer climates like Los Angeles and Miami, which already have charging station infrastructures. Introducing EVs into rural areas has been more difficult.

There are many reasons rural communities have been unable to fully embrace electric vehicles, from driving distance to lack of funds. Over 40% of new vehicle sales are predicted to be electric by 2040. As EVs take over the roadway, rural America may be left behind. Around 61 million residents live in rural areas who need access to EV charging, and many small towns need the ability to attract tourists who may drive EVs.

Those who drive EVs are unlikely to stop in towns with no EVSE infrastructure. Many of those small towns have businesses that rely on tourist dollars, spelling economic catastrophe for small businesses already hit hard by the pandemic. In fact, 16.7% of rural residents are already below the poverty.

Every location, however, even rural ones are right for electric chargers. The specific needs of rural communities just require careful planning. So, what vehicles and chargers are right for rural areas?

High-Range EVs

The biggest difference between urban drivers and rural drivers is the distance they cover. According to Strong Towns USA, over 30% of rural drivers commute at least 30 minutes, and as many as 4% commute over 90 minutes. Rural EV drivers generally need to re-charge every night, sometimes in between. Cold weather makes having access to public chargers even more important.

Many people still believe all EVs have a range of about 50 miles, but EVs have come far from where they started. While EVs with low or mid-range may not be practical for rural drivers, choices abound with a range of over 200 miles.

In fact, Cars.com recently compiled data on the EVs with the longest range. The Tesla Model X has a range of 387 miles, while the least expensive Tesla option, the Model 3, has a range of 353 miles. Customers don’t have to break the bank however to get an EV with great range. The reasonably priced Toyota and Hyundai had a range of 258 miles, the Chevy Bolt, 259 miles, and the Nissan Leaf S Plus, 226 miles.

Many EVs can go the distance, and some can go farther than ICE vehicles before needing to stop.

State Funding

Even EVs with the longest range have to eventually re-charge somewhere, and very few rural communities have money to invest in EVSE infrastructure. Most privately developed EVSE exist in urban areas where investors can get fast returns on their investment.

One option for states to expand charging infrastructure is to use funds from the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust), a result of their emissions settlement. According to the article “Paving the Way for Electric Vehicles in Rural America”, 15% of each state’s portion of the trust can be used to build charging stations and bring clean energy to rural communities.

Type of Charger and Location

Unlike urban drivers, who are surrounded by interesting ways to spend their time while their vehicles charge, rural drivers have few other distractions. Safety and speed are important features in charging stations in rural areas. Security phones, good lighting, and other safety features can help make drivers who are at charging stations alone, especially at night, feel safer.

The faster the charger, the better in rural areas. The Blink IQ 200 which puts out 80amps of power when installed on a 100-amp circuit, charges EVs in less time than any other Level 2 charger but doesn’t cost a fortune to install like DC Fast Chargers, making it the perfect solution for rural areas.

The best locations for rural chargers include highway stops, rest areas, and large businesses in small towns like a Wal-Mart, grocery stores, and pharmacies. Convenient for both residents and visitors, having chargers in these locations can keep residents easily charged while making small towns a convenient stop for urban tourists, who may visit small businesses, restaurants, and B&Bs in the area while their vehicle charges.

Bringing EVSE to rural areas is essential for their economic survival as EVs take over America’s highways. Bringing new technology to rural areas can serve public health in rural areas while helping them attract tourist dollars.

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