Road Trip Charging
Fast charging is fundamentally different from the car’s point of view, because when you charge at Level 1 or Level 2, the charging circuitry is inside the car. When you fast-charge, the control of the charging process is done outside of the car by the electronics on the post you hook up to. If you care about these things, a fast charger is direct current (DC) in the range of 450 volts, whereas a Level 1 or 2 charger is alternating current at 110 or 220-240 V, respectively. As a safety matter, this dictates separate connectors for AC and DC charging. If your car has only one charging port, it is designed for only AC charging. In SW Colorado, there are fast chargers for all cars anticipated by summer of 2020 in Cortez, Durango, Pagosa Springs and Silverton. At the moment (Dec 2019), there are fast chargers in our area only for Teslas (Blanding UT and Farmington NM).
Outside of the Four Corners there are fast chargers for all cars in Buena Vista CO (on the way to Denver) Grand Junction CO (3 sites), Moab and Price UT (on the way to Salt Lake City), Gallup NM and Grants NM (on the way to Flagstaff, AZ and sort of on the way to Albuquerque). There are a number of fast chargers in the Roaring Fork Valley (Glenwood CO, Basalt CO, and Aspen CO area), and numerous ones in Albuquerque, Salt Lake City/Utah Front Range, along the I-70 corridor (CO) and the Colorado Front Range (from Trinidad CO north along I-25 to Fort Collins CO). For the foreseeable future, our biggest challenge is getting from the Four Corners area directly to Albuquerque, NM from Four Corners in a non-Tesla. With one fast charge in Albuquerque just before you leave, it can be done in a 230-mile BEV, such as the Chevy Bolt, with careful driving at the speed limit.
The Tesla network is more evenly spaced and denser, with convenient “superchargers” leading out of our area in Page and Tusayan (Grand Canyon) Arizona; Blanding, Green River, Moab, and Price in Utah; Farmington, Gallup, and Albuquerque in New Mexico, and Poncha Springs, Colorado as well as at regular intervals in Colorado along the I-70 and I-25 corridors.
All told, there are currently about 600 public charging stations that fit on a laptop screen centered on the Four Corners (See 4 Corners Charging) and going east to eastern Colorado, north to Price UT, and so forth. As a technical detail, different connectors are needed for fast-charging with different car brands, but virtually all of the non-Tesla charging points have both connectors for the non-Tesla brands. You may see designations for these different types–primarily CCS and ChAdeMO. Use the one that fits your car.
How far can you go on a fast charge? Again, it depends on the exact charger and car, and charge speeds are increasing as the technology evolves. Figure 40 minutes for an 80% charge of a 200-250 mile battery. The fastest Tesla chargers (none yet in the Four Corners) provide up to 75 miles of range in 5 minutes. Newer technology promises to drop the 80% fill-up time to around 10 minutes, but we aren’t there yet. The faster “fast” chargers for non-Teslas in Colorado will give you about 40 miles for every 10 minutes of charging. Grab a bite to eat and stretch for a few minutes. You will soon be back on the road. These chargers make it possible to drive to Salt Lake or Denver in a day.
How much will you pay for a fast charge? Since there are only Tesla fast chargers in our area, it is difficult to generalize. Tesla superchargers average about $0.28/kwh (tesla.com/support/supercharging, accessed 24 Nov 2019). Thus for our hypothetical Tesla that needs 55 kwh, the cost would be about $15.50. Non-Tesla chargers are likely to be less economical than those for other types of cars as they are not subsidized by the manufacturer. However, in the summer of 2019, a couple did a round trip from Durango, CO to Spokane, WA in their Chevy Bolt. The total cost of electricity for the 3,178 mile trip was $108 (3.4 cents per mile). In many cases they were among the first users of the newly installed Electrify America interstate fast chargers. Download the Powerpoint below for a description of their trip. It includes:
- How they thought long distance EV traveling would work
- Dealing with when it didn’t go as planned
- Driving behavior
In some cases the infrastructure costs for building a fast-charging station are fairly high, as the site needs access to high voltage electricity and peak electrical loads for a cluster of fast chargers are very high (equivalent to a small city) and likely to coincide with peak demand periods (highest electricity cost). Most fast charging stations are also located in areas with good amenities (food, bathrooms, entertainment, and so forth); parking spots in such choice localities are precious. I have not seen evidence that fast-charging rates will vary by time-of-day, though there is a clear economic rationale for doing so. It’s likely a standard fast charge will cost from $10 to $30 for a fill-up of about 80% of a car’s battery.