December 4th, 2020 by Jennifer Sensiba
When it comes to charging non-Tesla EV vehicles in the Southwest, there’s good news and bad news these days. Utah and Colorado continue to make progress on rural routes while Arizona and New Mexico are falling behind.
In all four states, Electrify America’s network has been a large part of the improvement in the last couple years. Major highways, like Interstates 10, 40, 70, and 80 are starting to have great coverage. Just a couple of years ago, trips on even those interstates were extremely difficult except in Teslas, with a need to rely on NEMA 14-50 plugs at RV parks, the odd level 1 plug at some hotels, and the occasional J-1772 plug at a business or at someone’s home.
In 2020, though, we are starting to see the states diverge. In New Mexico, most of the state remains unserviced by level 3 EV charging, and nearly all stations outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe are still Electrify America stations. Arizona is slightly better off, but outside of the Phoenix Metro area and Tucson, almost all stations were put in by Electrify America, with the occasional Chargepoint station in places like Flagstaff. Even in Phoenix, many of the charging stations are older 50 kW stations that were put in years ago by companies like EVgo and Blink.
On the other hand, Utah and Colorado are working with local electric coops to put in stations even on rural two-lane routes. For example, stations have been put in even in southeast Utah, in places like Bluff, Monticello, Moab, and Price. Not only is this useful for people traveling through the state, but it allows people living in rural communities to use their EVs to travel to Salt Lake City (via US-191 and US-6), making it more likely that they’d consider purchasing one. For drivers living in metro areas already covered by EV charging, being able to go out and sightsee or work in more parts of the state also makes EV buying more attractive.
Colorado has been doing similar, with EV chargers in places like Pagosa Springs, Lake City, and Crested Butte. Denver has had decent EV charging for years, but for both rural Coloradoans and people living in the cities, EV buying is a more attractive proposition now.
The greater coverage now looks like dead end routes on maps of EV stations. It would be very difficult for drivers to continue past Bluff and into Arizona on US-191, for example. It might be possible to get to Interstate 40 if the car has enough range, but continuing south to places like Alpine, Springerville, or Safford would be very difficult considering the lack of even level 2 charging and the steep climbs.
Even an interstate dead ends in New Mexico. Electrify America and others have put in stations along Interstate 25 in Colorado and northern NM, but the Pan Am Highway has basically nothing all the way to its intersection with I-20 in Las Cruces. Once again, rolling hills and steep climbs (like La Cañada Alamosa or Nogal Canyon) sap the energy of even EVs that would otherwise in theory have the range to make it all the way to El Paso.
The rest of New Mexico, especially the southeast, is a real mess. Highway 285 (through oil country and into Texas) has no fast charging. US-54, a popular route to the Midwest, also has nothing. East-west routes likewise have nothing, and climbing mountains on US-70 or US-82 sap what little energy one can patiently gather in places with the odd J-1772.
It’s sad enough when one must live in one of these states with an EV that doesn’t have a T on the frunk, but it affects the surrounding region when they fall behind like this. Getting something like a LEAF or a Bolt from El Paso to Salt Lake City is a tough proposition unless one wants to take days of extra driving staying on the major interstates. Tourism to places like the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, or the White Mountains of Arizona just isn’t practical in anything but a Tesla. I know this, because I’ve done it and it sucked, bad.
Everyone who lives in, travels to, or passes through NM and AZ need to put pressure on state governments to keep up commitments like REV West. We would all be better off if they did.
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