Electric Powertrain Maker Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Azure Dynamics, a maker of electric powertrains and other parts for commercial vehicles, has filed for bankruptcy protection, the latest sign of turmoil in the electric-vehicle industry.

Electric Powered Transit Connect

Along with providing power for the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect, Azure Dynamics builds electric powertrains and battery systems for delivery vans, plug-in hybrid trucks, hybrid buses, and similar vehicles.

Having failed to raise sufficient funds through a company stock offering, the electric drivetrain manufacturer laid off 120 employees, 55 of whom were employed at its Oak Park, Michigan facility, reports Detroit Free Press.

The company, which had been doing much of its work in Oak Park, laid off 120 employees on Monday (April 9), including 55 in Oak Park.

It also stopped production and shut its Oak Park headquarters and other offices, except for a location just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, where the company is now based.

Mike Elwood, Azure’s vice president of marketing, said the company is restructuring its operations after failing to win approval from the Ontario Securities Commission for its plan to sell more stock.

Out of juice? Ford Transit Connect electric drivetrain supplier files for bankruptcy.

He said Azure, which is now operating with about 35 to 40 workers, intends to continue supporting vehicles that use the company’s parts.

“We fully intend to be back and moving forward, but we have to reorganize,” Elwood told the Detroit Free Press.

“We still believe that electric vehicles are a part of the solution going forward.”

Elwood blamed Azure’s financial problems on poor electric vehicle sales, tight capital markets, and the European financial crisis.

Azure, which was founded in Canada in the late 1990s, manufactured electric powertrains for the Ford Transit Connect Electric, an electric cargo van, and hybrid electric bus, and van delivery platforms, among other products.

The company lost $26.1 million in the first nine months of 2011, up from a net loss of $17.7 million during the same period in 2010.

Financial results have not yet been released for the fourth quarter of 2011.

As of March 1, Azure’s biggest shareholders were Shell Asset Management, Black Rock Investment Management, RBC Asset Management, and Johnson Controls’ Canadian subsidiary.

In early February, Azure Dynamics reported that it had taken orders for another 45 electric Transit Connects—20 in Europe and 25 in North America. The company has taken a claimed $32 million in orders for the electric Transit Connect.

This isn’t the first shakeup involving the Transit Connect and its conversion company.

Azure Dynamics, a maker of electric powertrains and other parts for commercial vehicles, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Ford originally partnered with English EV firm Smith Electric in 2009 to transform the Transit Connect into an electric van, but by the end of the year, both parties mutually dissolved the contract, reports Truck Trend.

Smith claimed it instead wanted to focus its capital and resources on its own vehicle development programs.

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Worth Pondering…
As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

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Elkhart’s EV Dream Dies as RVs Surge Anew

Elkhart, Indiana, is known as the RV capital of the world.

Newmar factory tour, Nappanee, Indiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city suffered badly when the recession hit, and demand for recreational vehicles all but screeched to a halt. That’s when local and state leaders started looking for ways to bolster the area’s manufacturing industry, reports NPR.

The northwestern Indiana County saw electric vehicles (EV) as its salvation after its unemployment rate soared to 20 percent—the highest in the nation at the time.

Electric cars were supposed to be the silver bullet to revive Elkhart’s economy. President Obama visited twice, promising stimulus funds to spark a new economic engine in EVs.

A common criticism of President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package has been that it failed to produce anything—that while the New Deal built bridges and dams, all the stimulus did was fill some potholes and create temporary jobs.

One success the Obama administration duly claimed is the rebirth of the EV industry in the U. S.

Automakers unveiled a number of mass-market EVs, which saw small but rising sales. Battery and parts manufacturers built 30 factories and created new jobs.

It was all part of an effort to promote “green” manufacturing and put a million electric cars on the road by 2015, reports Pro Publica.

The question was: Would it last?

Elkhart once believed it would.

Eager to seed a new industry, the county witnessed EV ventures sprout out of nowhere as the stimulus took off in 2009.

This is Amish Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But by late summer 2011, what had sprouted were mostly weeds. The parking lot of the Think Electric Vehicle factory had an ample supply of them and looked deserted.

There wasn’t a single car in the parking lot. The doors were locked and the windows dark.

At the back of the 200,000-square-foot facility were about 120 road-ready models, called the Think City—a little two-seat fully electric coupe that has a range of about 100 miles before it needs to be recharged.

Hundreds of laid-off factory workers were supposed to have found jobs churning out these Norwegian company’s bug-like, plastic-bodied cars.

Today the Elkhart factory employs two.

That’s right—just two employees are working in this auto plant. At its peak, the plant employed 25 workers. Then two waves of layoffs dropped the payroll down to just two people.

It’s a far cry from the more than 400 that Think Electric Vehicle promised it would hire two years ago.

In June (2011), Think’s parent company filed for bankruptcy.

The decision left the Elkhart plant on the brink of extinction until the American subsidiary was purchased by a Russian entrepreneur who promised to restart production in early 2012.

Then in late January (2012), its largest shareholder and battery maker, Ener1, which received $118 million in stimulus money, also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, reporting that the demand for EVs “did not develop as quickly as anticipated.”

Navistar International had received $39 million in stimulus money to build 400 electric delivery trucks in the first year. But by early 2011, it had hired about 40 employees and assembled only 78 vehicles.

Little remains of Elkhart’s dream of becoming the EV capital?

Elkhart’s economy, however, is on the way back with the RV industry again leading the way.

Welcome to Nappanee, Indiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They’re heartened by a rebirth in the industry that some here thought might never bounce back—the RV business.

“Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated,” says Gregg Fore, president of Dicor Corp. Its companies supply components to RV manufacturers.

Fore says the industry’s downturn was brutal, with business falling off close to 60 percent. But demand for RVs has come back strong, he says.

In 2011, the industry produced more than 250,000 RVs. That’s 100,000 more units than the low-water mark in 2009.

Dicor’s factories are once again humming—and hiring, he says. And Fore believes the market for motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and campers is here to stay.

But one thing that hasn’t changed, he says, is that the fortunes of Elkhart and its 51,000 still lives or dies with the RV industry.

Nearly half of all the jobs in Elkhart County are in manufacturing. And fully half of Elkhart County’s manufacturing jobs are in making RVs and their parts.

The “free” money has now been spent.

The RV industry has come back—it always comes back and without stimulus money from the White House.

This is why government should get out of the business of telling the people they should drive.

Worth Pondering…

Keep your eyes on the horizon and blaze a trail.

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Enova and Freightliner Display Green for Free Vehicle

Torrance, California-based Enova Systems, Inc., a leading developer of proprietary hybrid electric and all-electric drive systems and drive system components for the emerging green commercial vehicle market announced that one of the first pre- production vehicles resulting from Enova’s and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp’s (FCCC) recently announced Green for Free initiative will be on display at the Portland International Auto Show January 26-29.

The Portland International Auto Show estimates that around 150,000 attendees will have the opportunity to view the latest Green, Alternative Fuel, and Electric Vehicle Concepts at the Auto Show’s Eco Center.

In its second year as one of the largest Eco Centers in the nation, visitors will be able to find out more about the latest technology in vehicle charging, solar power, and a large range of electric and electric hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, according to a news release.

The Green for Free Program is designed to allow fleet executives to operate full 100 percent electric commercial vehicles (EVs) for similar life cycle costs as those of diesel-powered commercial vehicles.

The anticipated savings fleets are expected to realize from the reduced maintenance and fuel cost of electricity of the electric vehicles are used over a period of time to cover the incremental expense for the technology. Fleet vehicles targeted with the Green for Free Program stand out as possessing unique characteristics that make them clear beneficiaries of electric drive technology.

With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation, the nation’s fleets possess enough capacity to drive initial ramp-up scale in the EV OEM supply chains. This is the first Program that is engineered to eliminate the overall incremental costs associated with buying and operating an all-electric vehicle, making the Program attractive to fleets that are both large and small.

Enova and Freightliner Displaying ‘Green for Free’ Vehicle in Portland. (Credit: greenforfree.com)

FCCC and Enova plan to gradually deploy a total of 3,000 alternative-fuel vehicles beginning in the second half of 2012 as a result of the Green for Free Program. Enova and FCCC have defined the Green for Free Program as a new sustainable transportation model in which both companies are working in partnership with commercial fleets to offer a transportation model that provides clean, safe domestic and renewable energy.

Details

Enova Systems, Inc.
Enova Systems is a leading supplier of efficient, environmentally friendly digital power components and systems products. The Company’s core competencies are focused on the development and commercialization of power management and conversion systems for mobile applications.

Enova applies unique ‘enabling technologies’ in the areas of alternative energy propulsion systems for light and heavy-duty vehicles as well as power conditioning and management systems for distributed generation systems. The Company develops, designs and produces non-invasive drive systems and related components for electric, hybrid-electric, and fuel cell powered vehicles in both the “new” and “retrofit” vehicle sales market.

Address: 1560 West 190th Street, Torrance, CA 90501

Phone: (310) 527-2800

Website: enovasystems.com

Green for Free

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) and Enova partner unveil the Green for Free Program. (Credit: greenforfree.com)

The Green for Free Program intends to allow fleet executives to purchase all-electric vehicles for the cost of a diesel-powered commercial vehicle. The projected savings fleets incur from the reduced maintenance and fuel savings of the electric vehicles (EVs) are then used over a period of time to cover the incremental expense for the technology.

FCCC is already well-established in the market and can provide immediate volume, which is required to reduce high-cost components, such as batteries. Additionally, the project looks to focus on disciplined duty cycles, utilizing 80 percent of the battery daily, versus design for extended range.

Website: greenforfree.com

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC)
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) manufactures premium chassis for the motorhome, delivery walk-in van, and school bus, and shuttle bus markets. FCCC is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, a Daimler company.

Website: freightlinerchassis.com

Worth Pondering…
Learning is not a spectator sport.

—D. Blocher

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Grand Strand RV Park Offers EV Plug-Ins

Several months ago I reported that a handful of RV parks along the East and West Coast offer their 50-amp, 240-volt electric pedestals to electric vehicle (EV) owners in need of a refueling stop.

893 campsites at Ocean Lakes Family Campground feature pull-through sites, concrete pads, 20-30-50 amp electric service, water, and sewer. (Credit : Ocean Lakes Campground)

The first EV charging station along the Grand Strand and the coastal Carolinas recently opened (June 22) at Ocean Lakes Family Campground, a subsidiary of The Jackson Companies, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Ocean Lakes set up two Level 2 charging stations for EVs near the entrance of the mega oceanfront complex in Horry County, aiming to serve guests who tow their EVs to the beach and even non-guests in need of a charge, the Myrtle Beach Sun News reported.

There is no charge for RV park guests, while others will pay $5 to enter the campground and can use the snack bar, store, and other amenities while they wait the four hours for the charge.

Currently there are few EVs on Grand Strand roads, though some guests use EV cars to get around town. However, Ocean Lakes wanted to get ahead of the curve and be ready for the demand.

“We are just kind of planning ahead, setting the tone,” said Kevin McWhirter, Ocean Lakes’ maintenance and facilities manager. “It’s the up and coming.”

Ocean Lakes Family Campground invested about $3,000 in the two EV charging stations. Expenses included the asphalt parking pads, the outlet stations, the adapter cord, and signage.

Ocean Lakes features two Level 2 EV charging stations. (Credit: carstations.com)

The two stations are the first in the area, though more are expected to be installed by August through Plug In Carolina. Eight more stations are in the works for the county, including ones at Coastal Carolina University, Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Conway Library, and in North Myrtle Beach, said Jim Poch, executive director of Plug In Carolina, which promotes EVs and arranges for the installation of the charging stations.

“There is quite a bit of activity going on,” he said. “The vehicles are starting to hit the road on a national basis.”

Ocean Lakes is now one of only two locations east of I-95 in South Carolina that has EV stations available for public use. According to the U. S. Department of Energy, there are only 30 EV stations in South Carolina. The closest to the coast is at a convenience store in Monks Corner which is 77 miles southwest of Ocean Lakes or a Nissan dealership in Lumberton, North Carolina which is 95 miles north of Ocean Lakes.

For Ocean Lakes, the charging stations were an easy decision, spokeswoman Barb Krumm said. It fit with the campground’s desire to reduce its environmental impact and seemed like a natural for a business where plugs are everywhere. Ocean Lakes also aims to be a charging spot for drivers traveling long distances north and south through the coastal Carolinas.

Get a $5 visitor pass at the main office to the EV Charging Stations--no additional charging fee. (Credit: carstations.com)

Ocean Lakes has all 893 campsites equipped with 50 amp/240 volt service to operate camper appliances and air conditioners. Upon learning that the Society of Automotive Engineers defines 240-volt AC charging as “Level 2” charging, management decided that they could affordably provide a site for someone to park on to charge an eco-friendly vehicle.

“It’s kind of a natural for campgrounds,” Krumm said. “It fits really well with our industry.”

Officials with other local campgrounds, including Pirateland Family Camping Resort and Myrtle Beach KOA, said they had no plans to set aside EV stations this summer, but were talking about possibly adding them at some point in the future. Lakewood Camping Resort would consider adding them if there was sufficient demand from guests, corporate manager Melissa Gause said.

Pirateland has received several requests for EV stations, according to front desk supervisor Vickie Carmody.

“As more and more people start to use them, then it may be something we implement,” she said. “Definitely as the trend grows it’s something we would seriously consider.”

Officials at Ocean Lakes and Plug In Carolina acknowledged that there aren’t many EVs on the roads yet, but said they are installing the stations now to be ready when there is more demand.

“EV drivers need assurances that they’ll have places to charge. It’s the chicken or the egg,” Poch said.

A few guests at Ocean Lakes said they didn’t have a need for the EV charging stations, but said it probably wouldn’t be that way in a few years.

Others asked about a filling stall for propane or natural gas powered vehicles or a station for recharging hydrogen fuel cells. Is transferring dependence from oil to electricity the answer, they wondered.

“Isn’t this great? We can now burn more coal and gas and oil to produce so-called clean electric energy,” one mused.

In the end the market will dictate.

May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow.

Worth Pondering…
Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.

– Aristotle

From the archives

Worth Pondering…
The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein

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Yes Virginia, There is NO Free Lunch

Electric cars have arrived, and they’ve brought with them a social dilemma. American roads are maintained largely—and quite poorly—through the gas tax, a user fee that owners of electric vehicles (EVs)—with no need to stop at the pump—will avoid.

Juicing up the EV! (Photo credit: inhabitat.com)

If you don’t buy gas, you don’t have to pay the gas tax, right? That’s a big extra bonus for owners of EVs. Unfortunately, they’re also checking out of improving the very highways that they’ll be driving in their rides of the future.

Infrastructurist Eric Jaffe summarizes the issue. The idea has been floated that EV owners should pay a nominal fee—but, not a tax, mind you—to maintain the nation’s battered asphalt. But he goes on to argue that the real problem isn’t with EV owners checking out of their civic duty, but rather with the gas tax itself.

He reminds us that the gas tax has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.

Individual states can add to this figure, but the tax’s general failure to keep up with the cost of road maintenance creates situations like the one in Washington, whose drivers pay one of the highest combined (state-federal) gas tax rates in the country, at nearly 56 cents a gallon.

Currently the White House is toying with the idea of a pay-per-mile system, which wouldn’t be as hard to implement as it may sound. How would the government know how far you drove?

The Congressional Budget Office says that electronic equipment, possibly GPS-based but not necessarily, would record the number of miles you drove, then add up a bill that you’d pay, perhaps at your electric vehicle charging station.

Photo credit: watthead.org

This is NOT going to be popular with EV drivers. Since electric cars are expensive, buying one requires that you make a leap of faith. People worry about battery life, range, charger availability, and a number of other intangibles. It’s delicate right now, and throwing in a previously unknown tax could upset the balance.

Another way of looking at it: After the government gives me a tax break to buy the EV, they tax me for driving it?

The auto companies don’t like the idea of EV taxes either and make the case in a similar way.

Shad Balch of General Motors (which makes the Chevrolet Volt) recently stated: “There will be a time and place when electric vehicles should pay their fair share for road maintenance and those associated costs. But we’re not there yet. Right now, we need to create a market that incentivizes people to buy these cars.”

Paul Scott, vice president of Plug In America (and a Nissan Leaf salesman) says, “We at Plug In America think it’s inappropriate to tax EVs at this early stage of development.”

Scott did add that he favors some kind of “weight/mile” tax down the road, after electric vehicles proliferate.

Photo credit: allwelike.com

And people who worry about the long arm of Big Brother won’t be happy, either. As Mark G., a poster on The Car Connection, put it, “Besides the possible privacy issues, it would require an entirely new infrastructure and cost a fortune to put in place. It would end up being technology based, which means that is will be easy to manipulate or cheat. Plus, it will no doubt open up plenty of loopholes to avoid being taxed. I can only guess that they will use this as a scary alternative to justify raising the gas taxes.”

In the end, EV drivers will pay some kind of tax, and they’ll continue to get tax breaks, too.

Writing at CBS’ BNET, Matt DeBord muses that most EV buyers could easily pay Washington state’s $100 fee, or other such levies applied as part of taking delivery of the car.

“The cost could be rolled into a car’s purchase price, and it would become basically invisible,” he said.

That’s true, but a one-time fee is one thing and an ongoing pay-as-you-drive tax is something else again. With that, you’re going to get a big argument—nearly as big a one as you’d get if you proposed raising the 18.4 cents a gallon road tax.

If you haven’t heard, new taxes are off the American agenda.

Worth Pondering…
Thinking is one thing no one has ever been able to tax.

—Charles Kettering

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Should EVs Pay to Play?

Don’t you just love it when a prediction comes true?

Getting juiced up! (Photo credit: inhabitat.com)

Over three months ago a writer for Politics and Cars mused that if special electric meters are installed specifically for the purpose of charging an electric vehicle (EV), someone in government would figure out how to tax that electricity in the same way gasoline is taxed.

Gasoline taxes are supposed to go for repairs and improvement of roads. The gas tax is simply a user tax. You use the roads. You pay for them.

That’s only fair. Right?

However, if EVs use the roads without paying for their use, that is unfair.

The issue is contentious because gasoline taxes generate $45 billion annually to pay for highway repairs.

Let’s say you live in California, and purchased a Nissan Leaf. The car’s $32,000 bottom line would have taken a huge bite out of your budget, but the feds rewarded you with a $7,500 tax credit and the state kicked in a $5,000 cash payout. At $20,000, the Leaf is now affordable, and the three cents a mile operating costs are good news, too.

But now they want to hit you with a new tax?

The rest of us say it’s not fair that we pay a premium of 18.4 cents per gallon (24.4 cents for diesel) to maintain the nation’s roads, help to eradicate potholes, and keep overpasses from falling down while EV drivers pay nothing.

Nissan Leaf. (Photo credit: nissanusa.com)

That’s harsh, you think, being a crusader for clean air. After all, you’re saving the planet by decreasing your carbon footprint.

That, in a nutshell, is the debate over whether or not to reform the gas tax as the automobile electrifies.

One way to ensure that EVs pay their fair share is to create an entirely new system that’s not based on what you drive to get there but on how far you drive (pay-per-mile).

I’ll report more on this new pay-per-mile system in my next post.

John Voelcker, senior editor at High Gear Media, explains it this way: “My basic take is that I’m sympathetic to the desire of EV owners not to be taxed, but right now, there’s no mechanism by which EVs are contributing to highway funds. And because people aren’t driving as much, we face a phenomenal shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.”

Voelcker’s research indicates that U.S. gasoline consumption peaked in 2006, when we used 374 million gallons every day. High fuel prices are also cutting into driving, and thus reducing gasoline tax payouts that pay for road repairs.

The charging plug on the Smart EV prototype. (Photo credit: Daimler)

America’s fuel tax burden isn’t that much of a burden when compared with other countries. The 18.4 cents is phenomenally lower than the very high taxes Europeans pay—as much as half of the $8 or more they pay per gallon. Fuel tax in Canada is also considerably higher than in the United States.

A little known fact is that the fuel tax is only about 35 percent of subsidies to the U.S. road and highway system. The rest is vehicle taxes (20 percent), tolls (less than 5 percent), general fund appropriations (15 percent), borrowing (10 percent), property taxes (5 percent), and miscellaneous taxes and fees (10 percent).

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, only 53 percent of the state’s roads are in “good” condition, while the others range from “poor” to “mediocre” to “fair.”  Apparently the United States has no such thing as a “great” road.

It’s not just the federal government, either. States can and will tax electric vehicles, too, and they’ll already finding creative ways to do it. Washington State is considering the nation’s first fee on EVs to help cover wear and tear on the state’s roads.

The Washington State bill would apply a $100 surcharge for EVs during the licensing process, and it’s already passed the state Senate and is awaiting action in the state House. Washington’s 37.5-cents-per-gallon fuel tax costs the average driver about $200 a year, transportation officials say. That’s equivalent to driving roughly 12,000 miles in a vehicle that gets 23 mpg.

Meanwhile, Oregon legislators are working on a bill that would charge drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles up to 1.43 cents for each mile they drive, beginning with cars from the 2014 model year. It would cost about $172 per year for a car driven 12,000 miles—about the same as the gas tax paid for a vehicle that gets 21 mpg.

Pardon me, but aren’t these two states that really like EVs because they’re environmentally friendly.

I’m amazed, though, that California didn’t think of it first!

Worth Pondering…
Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:

If it moves, tax it.

If it keeps moving, regulate it.

And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

—Ronald Reagan

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Recharge Your EV at Campgrounds, Part 2

Microsoft Utility Rate Service (MURS)

Microsoft recently launched a national database of plug-in vehicle charging rate plans that makes it simple for EV owners to locate the best electricity prices to charge your plug-in vehicle, reports inhabitat.com. The database is called the Microsoft Utility Rate Service (MURS). It will be available via subscription to government agencies, power providers, auto makers, and electric vehicle charging equipment companies

Juicing up the EV! Photo courtesy inhabitat.com

According to Warren Dent, director of business development at Microsoft, MURS will be offered in at least 17 different markets—mostly on the East Coast and West Coast—but also including cities like Detroit, Denver, and Chicago.

To get started, Microsoft is collaborating with one-to-three utilities in each region to get access to the data, and is expecting that its partnerships with companies like Duke Energy, Xcel Energy, and Portland General Electric will provide it with more relevant information. The pricing information will then be sent from the utility companies to Microsoft, which will relay that information to MURS subscribers. MURS sends the data directly to the plug-in vehicle, eliminating the need for interaction with drivers.

GoCampingAmerica to Support EV Owners

The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds plans to create a listing on its GoCampingAmerica website of parks that offer electric vehicle refueling services.

“We will over time gather all of this information and make it available online, but clearly the potential is there for the nation’s private campground owners to help support the greening of the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” said Paul Bambei, president and chief executive officer of the association, which counts more than 3,300 members.

“Campgrounds are an ideal place for electric vehicle owners to take a break from driving,” he noted. “Most have swimming pools, lakes and scenic venues, and wireless Internet service…Many campgrounds also offer rental accommodations, so you can recharge your vehicle and spend the night and be ready to hit the road the next day.”

Currently, Ford is utilizing on Microsoft’s service to allow its drivers to charge their cars when utility rates are lowest. Image courtesy inhabitat.com

If you are willing to take the time to stop and explore during your journey, it feels less rushed, more enjoyable, even part adventure.

The Future

RV sites have exactly the power facilities most EV drivers need. It’s an excellent, if not obvious match.

Yes, the RV and the EV crowd appear to have much in common.

Life is a journey! Enjoy it!

Worth Pondering…
All things are possible until they are proved impossible—and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.

—Pearl S. Buck

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Recharge Your EV at Campgrounds

It is not a stretch to see campgrounds with charging stations, in addition to national parks, state parks, Camping World, and other places where RVers travel. And of course, the bottom line is, that if charging does become ubiquitous then an Electric Vehicle (EV) as a dinghy becomes a viable decision, wrote Bob Difley in dinghytowing.rvtravel.com.

A sign of the times. Image courtesy pluginrecharge.com

“Costs of charging would be passed on to the driver, as are regular fuel costs, but if utility companies continue with reduced rates for overnight use, then charging your EV toad in your campground while you sleep would be not only efficient but cheaper. Meters on the charging stations would calculate costs and add to your campground charges,” added Difley.

Two short months later it’s a reality!

EV Owners Getting a Charge at Campgrounds

Across the country, campground operators are reporting a gradual uptick in inquiries from EV owners who are considering using campgrounds as refueling stops on long-haul trips. Travelers who do this typically have adapters that enable them to plug into 50-amp, 240-volt electric pedestals that campgrounds often provide with their RV sites, reports Edmunds.com.

“We’ve been getting quite a few calls from people wanting to charge their vehicles at our park,” said Russ Yates, owner of Holiday Park Campground in Greensboro, Maryland, adding that he’s installed a separate 50-amp/240 volt plug on the side of the campground office so that people can recharge their vehicles without having to park in a campsite. He charges $8.50 for a four-hour charge.

“Most people who come to our park to recharge their vehicles come up to our store and buy snacks. Or they get on their laptops and send email. But most of them simply take a nap in their vehicle or they walk around our park and sit by the river,” Yates said.

EV owners can charge their cars at Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, Maryland. Photo courtesy Edmunds.com

Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland, has been one of the greenest campgrounds in the country for several years, having made substantial investments in solar panels for water heating and power generation. And then there’s the campground’s electric-vehicle charger, something EV drivers are not accustomed to seeing at campgrounds.

Mike Gurevich, owner of Cherry Hill Park, the closest campground to Washington, D.C., recently recalled a proud moment two years ago: “This guy knocked on the door and said, ‘Can I charge my car?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

Using the campground’s 50-amp, 240-volt electric hookups, EV owners with special adapters can charge their cars at Cherry Hill Park in about four hours. While their cars get juiced up, the owners typically “just hang out. Some sit at our picnic tables and work on their computers, using our Wi-Fi system. Others eat lunch at our cafe,” Gurevich said.

Only a handful of electric-car owners have used Cherry Hill Park for refueling purposes so date, but Gurevich plans to market the feature in coming weeks in an effort to increase his business. He charges $10 for a four-hour charge.

On the West Coast the Ciudad del Rey Motel & Trailer Park is a mandatory stop to charge on trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco if you only have 100 something mile range.

Getting juiced up! Photo courtesy inhabitat.com

Patrick Stone, owner of Mountain Gate RV Park in Redding, California, said he’s also had several people stop by his park to recharge their vehicles. “Normally,” he said, “they’re on their way north or south and they need a pretty good charge to get over the mountains.”

RV sites have also bailed EV owners out from a defective charge station. When the chargers at the Long Beach Convention Center turned out to be inoperative the Golden Shore RV Park, a mile to the west, helped drivers out with parking, charging, and a bike rental to explore the area.

While the idea of using campgrounds as refueling stops for electric vehicles is enticing for many park operators, campgrounds may need to install dedicated chargers so as not to tie up too many camping hookups if the EV-charging idea takes off, said Wade Elliott, president and CEO of Utility Supply Group, an RV and EV pedestal supplier based in Preston, Washington. That will be particularly true as more EVs and plug-in hybrids hit the streets.

Happy Trails. Life is an adventure. Enjoy your journey.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…
Shoot for the moon, Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.

—Les Brown

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