The state has released information on just how frequently those rural electric car recharging stations are being used, and it’s not exactly like those lines for gasoline back in the 1970s during the oil embargo.
The Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy reports that drivers have charged their expensive electric vehicles 274 times at the three charging stations built by the state in Beatty, Fallon and Panaca along Highways 95 and 93 since the first one opened in early 2016, according to The Nevada Independent. The donation-funded news website reports this usage saved a total equivalent to 395 gallons of gasoline and dispensed 3,150 kilowatt-hours of electricity. It was dutifully noted that the usage rate is growing.
The costs of these charging stations, which give away the power for free — dubbed the Nevada Electric Highway — has been a moving target. When the first one opened in Beatty in March 2016 the Governor’s Office of Energy said each would cost $15,000.
In the summer of 2015 press accounts said each would cost $30,000.
A June 2017 story in the Las Vegas newspaper quoted a spokesman for the governor as saying the cost of each station would range from $85,000 to $250,000, but he assured that “none of that comes from taxpayer dollars. The office is funding its portion of costs with federal grant money, and the electric utility covers the rest.” And we thought federal grant money came from taxpayers and utility costs were passed on to the ratepayers.
According to the Governor’s Office of Energy, NV Energy put up $30,000 in an upfront cost abatement payment. It also reports NV Energy is putting out $30,000 for three stations and Valley Electric Association is shelling out $15,000 for one.
Another station opened a month ago in Hawthorne. No usage for that outpost was mentioned yet. The press release announcing the opening was bereft of dollar signs.
The first three electric car charging stations have been open an average of about 540 days. Thus, according to the state, they are used about once every two days. The station in Panaca has been used only six times since opening in September, less than once a month.
Taking the low-ball cost per station of $15,000 each that means the 395 gallons of gasoline saved cost $114 per gallon in capital outlay alone, never mind maintenance and operating costs. The high-end of $250,000 per station translates to $1,900 per gallon.
Using the current retail power cost of about 12 cents per kWh, the stations have given electric car drivers less than $380 worth of power over two years. Now there’s a bargain.
The NVIndy website said Gov. Brian Sandoval sent it an email statement saying he was “encouraged” by the progress of the project.
“When the entire route is complete, range anxiety will be significantly reduced, giving more travelers the comfort required to travel between Reno and Las Vegas,” the statement reportedly said. “Moreover, as the number of electric cars increases, I am confident even more travelers will utilize the electric highway.”
When that Beatty charging station opened, Sandoval was on hand to demonstrate by charging up a Ford Focus from the state Department of Transportation fleet in Las Vegas. Since the car had a range of only 76 miles, it had to be hauled to the ceremony from Las Vegas. Most of the Beatty charging stations take four hours to recharge, though a couple can do an 80 percent recharge in half an hour.
According to that 2017 Las Vegas newspaper account, a spokesman for the governor said the office has identified 24 sites along five traffic corridors “where EV charging stations make sense.”
Depends on what one means by make sense.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.