EV stations charging forward | nnbusinessview.com

EV stations charging forward

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Dean Parker, the executive facilities director at the Peppermill, says staff of the hotel and casino started seeing a steady increase of guests who were arriving in electric vehicles this autumn.

Looking to provide yet another amenity to its guests, the property last month installed two charging stations — each capable of providing power to two vehicles simultaneously. During the Thanksgiving weekend, Parker says at least four guests took advantage of the new stations.

The charging stations at the Peppermill are one of the early manifestations of a wave of nearly 30 electric-vehicle charging stations expected to come on line in northern Nevada by the end of this month.

The push reflects the success of a cost-sharing program sponsored by NV Energy in which the utility bears a portion of the expense.

Cost of the charging stations ranges from $1,000 to $6,500, with another $1,500 to $2,000 in installation costs, says Travis Johnson, program manager for electric transportation for NV Energy.

But Johnson says the installation of charging stations is motivated by more than the cost-sharing deal.

“Customers are beginning to search out places such as the Peppermill because they have charging stations,” he says.

And the number of potential customers — while miniscule — is growing.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles says 115 electric vehicles were registered in Washoe County at mid-2013, up from 45 just a year earlier. (Another 4,031 gas-electric hybrids are registered in the county.)

The number of electric vehicles registered in Carson City has doubled in the past year — to 12 from six — and even rural areas such as Churchill County are seeing a few electric vehicles on the road.

But public charging stations remain relatively rare. About a dozen charging locations are available within a 30-mile radius of downtown Reno, says ChargePoint, a Campbell, Calif., manufacturer of the technology. Most of the Reno-area stations, such as those at the Harrah’s parking garage downtown, can handle multiple vehicles at the same time.

Circus Circus began installation of charging stations in its downtown garage last week.

Some charging stations, such as the high-visibility location outside Einstein Bros. Bagels at South McCarran Boulevard and Kietzke Lane, aren’t always in use. But Johnson says they provide a safety net to drivers who otherwise might worry that they’re going to drain their batteries before they get home.

As NV Energy works to build a larger network of publicly available charging stations, Johnson says the utility is targeting strategic locations such as shopping center parking lots. Another priority is locations in outlying communities.

But locations that make the most sense aren’t always the easiest to serve.

Michelle Horton, assistant director of parking and transportation services at the University of Nevada, Reno, says the school’s staff was challenged to find workable locations for the stations it installed this autumn at the Brian J. Whalen and West Stadium parking complexes.

The concrete structures weren’t wired for much power other than what is needed to keep the lights on. But Horton says staff found that power supplies to elevators in the parking garages could be tapped fairly easily for charging stations as well.

Most companies are covering the cost of the electricity itself, which runs about 60 cents an hour while a vehicle is charged, says Johnson.

Users of the UNR stations, however, must pay the cost of parking — either daily or a year-long permit — to access the garages in which the charging stations are located.