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Biggest RV park conventions ignore the elephant in the room

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OPINION
Private campground owners from around the country have descended on Orlando, Florida, for a fortnight of the year’s biggest annual conventions, hosted by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) last week and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) this week. But while the subject most prominently on ARVC’s agenda was electric vehicles (EVs) and how they “are poised to be a major factor in the future of outdoor hospitality,” the elephant outside the room was resolutely ignored—even as it quite literally hammered on the door to be recognized.

Going into its meeting, ARVC had just been provided by Hurricane Ian with an object lesson on how a rapidly changing climate is upending the industry’s traditional business practices. Several dozen Florida campgrounds had been shut down by Ian’s rampage, some permanently. Surely even as hidebound an organization as ARVC would take notice of a growing existential threat to its members, not just in Florida but throughout a country battered by extreme drought, flooding and wildfires? How to deal with the soaring cost and unavailability of property insurance, best practices in fire- or flood-prone areas, how to determine when it no longer makes sense to rebuild—all these and a host of other pressing topics could and should have made it into ARVC’s program.

But no. They did not. Instead, as Tropical Storm (and briefly Hurricane) Nicole battered the Atlantic coastline, canceled all flights out of Orlando, cut power to hundreds of thousands and killed at least two people, ARVC convention-goers were treated to the usual smorgasbord of amenity-promoting and revenue-enhancing topics: best practices to generate incremental revenue, the importance of ADA-compliant websites, “Scooters and Bicycles and Golf Carts—Oh My!” Trade association agendas, after all, are driven by vested interests that have something to sell.

EV charging a hot topic at RV convention

Indeed, the big topic of the day was the oncoming wave of electric vehicles—ironically, a wave propelled by climate change—as convention-goers were urged to start installing EV charging stations, even if only incrementally. Although evidence of market demand is still slim, ARVC made the most of what it had, asserting that 57% of respondents to a survey it conducted this past summer said that availability of an EV charging station would be important for them in picking a campground.

Well, sort of. The survey received limited attention on the convention floor, perhaps because out of 32,271 potential respondents, only 581 chose to reply—and only 457 were chosen for most data points. Moreover, the 57% response about the importance of EV charging stations came from 18 campers who already own an EV and 28 more who said they plan to buy one in the next year. That’s a slim reed on which to float expectations, plucked from a larger raft of questionable usefulness. As acknowledged by the polling firm itself, “It is unknown how those who responded to the survey may be different from those who did not respond.”

For campground owners trying to get ahead of the curve, however, the cautionary note is not necessarily one of capital costs. Level 2 charging stations, which can recharge an EV overnight, are relatively inexpensive: figure $500 for the equipment and possibly a like amount for installation. (Level 3 “fast” chargers, on the other hand, are commercial grade and therefore in an entirely different price category, starting at a minimum of $20,000 per charger. That didn’t deter some convention speakers from pushing them anyway.) Assuming, therefore, that a campground wanted to ease into the EV world with half-a-dozen Level 2 chargers, it could do so for $6,000 or so, which won’t break anyone’s bank.

The bigger and largely unaddressed problem, however, was how campgrounds will be able to recoup their “fuel” costs. Because the amount of EV traffic into RV parks is still nominal, most campgrounds that allow EV charging, whether through an RV pedestal or via a dedicated charger, currently absorb the cost as a goodwill loss-leader. Once that nominal expense becomes a growing hit against the bottom line, however, the inevitable question will become one of how RV parks will be able to start charging for the energy they’d been giving away.

The answer, alas, is “it depends.”

Electricity sales, unlike gasoline, are monopolized by electric utilities operating under rules that vary from state to state, with billing practices that vary from one utility to another. Most states, for example, don’t allow resellers of electricity to make a profit in doing so—all they can do is pass along their costs. A work-around offered by one convention panelist, that campgrounds charge for the kilowatts consumed at the utility rate but then tack on a “convenience fee” for allowing EVs to plug in, seems like a lawsuit magnet for any utility jealously defending its turf. Meanwhile, seven states still regulate EV charging as the exclusive domain of electric companies, as described in a recent Politico article.

A second variable is what’s known as a “demand charge,” which many homeowners don’t encounter but some business owners, including those who own campgrounds, know all too well. Demand charges are meant to compensate utilities for providing enough delivery infrastructure to meet spikes in demand caused by businesses with a lot of highly variable consumption—such as campgrounds. The demand charge is a base fee that is multiplied by the kilowatts consumed at peak demand each month, and is in addition to the per kilowatt cost of the electricity itself.

The problem for campground owners is that there is no one standard demand charge across the country: Such charges vary wildly from one utility to another. A relatively modest demand charge in one service area may be prohibitively steep in an adjoining one. And while Level 2 charging stations are not consumption black holes like Level 3 stations, they nevertheless can add a notable boost to peak demand that will have a disproportionate effect on the final bill.

Campground owners, for these and other reasons, should completely abandon any idea of installing Level 3 charging stations. As Politico reports, “Electrify America, a leading charging provider, says that demand charges are up to 80 percent of the cost” of operating Level 3 charging stations. And those stations, remember, costs tens of thousands of dollars just for the hardware.

Sorting out such cost complexities requires a lot of study and possibly the advice of a consultant—all but assuring that EVs will remain a convention staple for some time to come, since there’s money to be made from selling things. Too bad that’s not as readily true for the business of confronting elephants, no matter how much destruction they wreak. That takes true leadership, a rare commodity.


 PREVIOUSLY FROM ANDY… 

Andy Zipser is the author of Renting Dirt, the story of his family’s experiences owning and operating a Virginia RV park, and of Turning Dirt, a step-by-step guide for finding, buying and operating an RV park and campground. Both books are available through bookstores or at Amazon.com.

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John the Road Again
18 days ago

1st, if you honestly believe that post-19th-century industrial activity is responsible for a climate crisis, I don’t see how the ownership and use of anything as remotely frivolous as a “recreational vehicle” is morally indefensible, even if it is run on electricity. (more than likely produced from an infrastructure built by and still largely powered by fossil fuels)

Last edited 18 days ago by John the Road Again
John the Road Again
18 days ago

2nd, as one of the most frequent complaints on this and other RV blogs is about the dismal state of the electrical service in all too many RV parks, it’s obvious that most if not all would have to be totally re-wired from the pedestals to the power supplier to accommodate any significant amount of Level 2 charging, much less Level 3. That could easily be a half-million to million or more for even a nominally sized park. Of course, that cost would have to be passed on to campers. Get used to $200-a-night plus rates for your better parks that will eventually only be catering to the half-million dollar rigs to make the economics work. The only upside is that those EV rigs won’t be boondocking where the rest of us will be forced to be as there’s absolutely no way to cover a 40-foot Class-A with enough solar panels to charge such a large vehicle to any meaningful degree in less than a week.

volnavy07
21 days ago

The biggest “elephant not in the room” for me is the local restrictions on building new RB parks.

Digger Dave
25 days ago

Activist author, with , in my opinion, no background on RVers. Even though he has written books about it.
1) as far as I know, there are no towable, 4 wheels down, to go behind a motorhome.
2) you could place them on a trailer, but will the campground have room, to park all these trailers, or sites long enough to stay connected.
3) The cost are way off for each class of power connections. $100k per stall for cl 3, when you 6 minimum.
4)The overall power supply will need to be upgraded for the entire campground. 100 site, bring in power for 100 charging station if that’s where we are going.
5) These EVs are heavy. Rivian R1T is 7,200 lbs empty. Look up what that trailer would cost you.
6) Don’t get me started on towing a trailer with a EV. Unless it’s a small, lightweight, day tripper and you stay close to home.

Ted
25 days ago

I only have one question, that NO “green new deal socialist” will honestly answer. Why are all electric vehicle batteries produced outside the United States? I don’t mean assembled, I mean made from the raw materials.

chris
25 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Why would anyone want to answer a ” right-wing Fascist” question?

MEP
25 days ago
Reply to  chris

You two are the problem w today…no respect.

Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  MEP

well the commenter started with “socialist”. How is it socialist to want to improve society with something that will keep society alive for longer?

Big Bill
23 days ago
Reply to  Ted

If you are serious about energy consumption, tent camp and drive an ev. Just don’t preach to most of us who own and operate rvs most of which are energy hogs. I personally own 5 vehicles none of which get great mileage. And at my age I won’t be around when the final energy crunch hits. Meanwhile I will happily oink as I cruise around the country in my Class A or my Class B. My next door neighbor has a brand new top of the line Tesla. HE also has a brand new sleek black Corvette that wakes up the whole neighborhood when he cranks it up.If he would also buy a class A rv he would be my ultimate role model!!! Do I worry about future generations? Hell no. Technology will either solve the energy crisis or we go back to a low tech world. Change is the only constant.

MikeinAZ
22 days ago
Reply to  Big Bill

final energy crunch

Seriously, we have enough oil for well over 100 years under our feet in America. This push toward renewables is totally unnecessary at this time. Yes, at some point when renewables are actually ready to take over, fossil fuels will be phased out, but we’re nowhere near that point now. We need to allow the markets and technology to determine when that point arrives versus having an administration force it down our throats, which is exactly what’s happening right now.

John the Road Again
18 days ago
Reply to  Big Bill

The “final energy crunch” is already happening in Europe, which is already several years ahead of us going down the “green new deal” rabbit hole. I fear it may be happening here sooner than you think.

Uncle Swags
25 days ago

Repeating things doesn’t make them true. Just more annoying. And the people who repeat them more irrelevant.

Ted
25 days ago
Reply to  Uncle Swags

Agreed.

B N S
24 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Agreed as well..

MikeinAZ
25 days ago

I would like to purchase a new RV but there is no way with these radical energy policies that are unnecessarily being pushed on America by this administration.

Big Bill
23 days ago
Reply to  MikeinAZ

Political bashing is BORING! Hope you don’t buy an rv, you would probably be a “pita” as a neighbor

MikeinAZ
22 days ago
Reply to  Big Bill

Bashing is totally acceptable/necessassary in this case. GW/CC is not happening and this push toward green energy is totally unnecessary and it is going to fail.

BTW, I already own a motorhome and have really enjoyed the lifestyle. These green new deal policies are going to ruin lifestyles and hopefully the republicans in the house will slow this ridiculousness down.

Last edited 22 days ago by MikeinAZ
JAMES
25 days ago

I’m just going to buy horses to pull my RV.

Poppy
25 days ago

There is no scientific evidence that hurricanes are more violent or prevalent than in previous years. The increased damage that people always point to is a result of more things to tear up in more expensive things not the velocity of the hurricane itself. Climate change hysteria is going to wreck everything much more than a hurricane.

Ted
25 days ago
Reply to  Poppy

Climate change hysteria will wreck everything as we know it today.

Big Bill
23 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Rational discussion is not hysteria.

John the Road Again
18 days ago
Reply to  Big Bill

The “rational discussion” has long since moved on to ignorant freaked-out privileged 1st-world kids vandalizing artwork. We’re now into abject mental illness.

MikeinAZ
19 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Yes it will, and our RV lifestyles that require the use of fossil fuels will be one of the many parts of our lives that will go away or be changed for the worst if this radical push toward renewable energy continues. I cannot believe the number of voters that do not understand this fact and they voted for more of the same a couple of weeks ago.

Last edited 19 days ago by MikeinAZ
Burt
25 days ago

Andy, the article author, needs another outlet for his ignorant activism. This article is stupid on multiple fronts as others have stated.

MikeinAZ
25 days ago
Reply to  Burt

yes, they’re going to ruin the RV industry, a great lifestyle and plans with this uneccessary/outrageously expensive push toward radical green new deal socialism.

B N S
24 days ago
Reply to  MikeinAZ

Sadly its the “Great Reset” push by the Worlds Elitists… WEF! It will ultimately Fail..

Ted
25 days ago
Reply to  Burt

Agreed. Americans should be able to choose an electric vehicle, over a gas/diesel vehicle, because it is a better vehicle at a better price. NOT because we are TOLD we have to buy one to “save the planet”.

Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  Ted

Yes. Go buy a new diesel or gas. They are cheaper and available. Choice is there. It will cost more longer term for some for maintenance and gas but that’s your choice.

Paul
25 days ago

Your article somewhat answered the question of cost recovery / reselling energy. I’ve gotta believe that a pay-per-kilowatt charging station, slide your credit card and pay away, ought to be entering into someone’s discussion. Whether it’s the energy company or the RV park, just like fueling up your RV at the pumps, those that choose to use EV’s as they’re pull-behind, should bear their own costs. Until someone comes up with a better plan.

Lou
26 days ago

EV charge stations at campgrounds would be as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Sure there might be a few who use an EV towed behind their DIESEL pusher. The author sounds as if this is the first time a hurricane has hit Florida. I am pretty sure Florida rv park operators are aware of hurricanes.

Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  Lou

It will be great for me that wants an EV to tow. Helps offset some cost and how I’m hurting the planet with the diesel. See younger demo article

MikeinAZ
19 days ago
Reply to  Dave

“and how I’m hurting the planet with the diesel”

I’m not trying to be a total smart aleck, but I’d say that you’re being extremely hypocritical just like all the other big wig elitists who tell the rest of us to stop using fossil fuels while they continue to fly around the planet in their private jets. I think you should stop using your diesel powered RV and live the lifestyle that you’re preaching because you think we’re killing mother earth with fossil fuels.

Last edited 19 days ago by MikeinAZ
A fahren
26 days ago

You want an RV convention to try to, what, fix the climate? This is just getting ridiculous. Not only is an RV convention the wrong place because they can’t do anything about it, but probably most of their clients aren’t too into it. They were talking about EV, isn’t that the only answer y’all have for this issue?
But most campers I tslk to aren’t very liberal and this is definitely an ideological issue.

A fahren
26 days ago

Is this article seriously about climate change? LMAO

Darla
25 days ago
Reply to  Andy Zipser

Love this response! I try to remind myself often that denial is the first stage in the grief process.

Off grid electrical systems would be a way to get around utility company regulations. Not sure if it’s viable.

Digger Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  Andy Zipser

I don’t see climate change as a top or even top 10 issues facing campground owners. As American entrepreneurs, they will adapt slowly as the climate changes. No hurry.

See elsewhere my comments on EVs

Author, Email me if you would like another viewpoint from a campground user of over 30 yrs.

B N S
24 days ago
Reply to  Andy Zipser

Trust me, the owners of The Peace River Campground are NOT blaming the flooding on Climate Change!! Just ask me how I know…

Dan
20 days ago
Reply to  Andy Zipser

You did not even get to first base… climate change is a constant, always has been, always will be. Hurricanes and severe weather are nothing new and even necessary for the health of our world. It creates a balance that supports life. The RV industry must continue to recognize and prioritize the CURRENT needs and trends of those they serve, not join those who banter back and forth about various theories around saving the earth. And RV Park owners will certainly jump on the band wagon if and when there is truly a profitable demand for EV support in their Parks.

chris
20 days ago
Reply to  Dan

Do you think climate science is so ignorant they need to be reminded that the climate changes over thousands of years?

Last edited 20 days ago by chris
KellyR
26 days ago

Andy, good article. Good to see how one of the RV industry organizations are thinking. It appears to me that some that are arguing against your article are in essence agreeing with it. ????

captain gort
26 days ago

There have been huge hurricanes FAR longer than there have RV parks. And just as large and frequently. The only “problem” is that- today- there are FAR FAR FAR more people and structures crowded into the path of these hurricanes than there were in decades past. So, when one strikes, the destruction is ALWAYS far greater. Hence, the exaggeration of the situation.
Same with forest fires, droughts, floods…you name it. Its only a “disaster” because hoards of people now live where they once did not. Nature is just doing her normal thing- but now we’re in the way. Not to mention, the breathless 24×7 “reporting” the internet now drowns us all with in its battle for “clicks”.

Dave
26 days ago
Reply to  captain gort

Read please

Ron Yanuszewski
26 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Exactly, And everyone Should have to attach a real name so the world can know who the true dopes are that we’re dealing with.

KellyR
26 days ago
Reply to  captain gort

Thanks captain. I don’t see how anyone can argue with this. In just the past 53 years that I have been in Florida most of the public, wild, nice vacant, naked beaches are gone and filled with hotels and condos. Storms of the past may have removed some of the beach, but now they take buildings with them. Governments have looked for increased tax bases rather that saving their own nature.

B N S
25 days ago
Reply to  captain gort

Yes!

Ross
24 days ago
Reply to  captain gort

Very important facts. More RV Parks, more villages than 30 years ago means more parks and villages will be hit by hurricanes. This also equates to more prominent media reporting on impacts.

So maybe the Sky isn’t really falling?

Dave
26 days ago

I love these EV articles for the drama. Let’s all just get horses again? People hate change even if it benefits all later

chris
26 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Starting to become a weekly occurrence on here, reading all the EV bashing comments from those who hate change, and how it’s some sinister plot to control people.

Last edited 26 days ago by chris
Carl
25 days ago
Reply to  chris

Here’s a idea for you. You pull your camper with one and let’s see how far you make it.

Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  Carl

Nobody is asking you to do that. Only that change is here and improving. EV isn’t ready to pull your camper yet. Read other articles this newsletter produces…from the Electric Expert, Sokol. We’re still 5-10 years away from the true capability…but it keeps getting better. Things can’t change instantly.

Tim Buchanan
26 days ago

There needs to be a thumbs up button where we can agree with a comment without having to write something saying we agree.

Terry
26 days ago
Reply to  Tim Buchanan

I concur sir.

Joe
26 days ago
Reply to  Tim Buchanan

Tim, that’s an easy fix 👍👍👍👍

George
26 days ago

Winnebago unveiled their e-RV class B motorhome (concept) this year. In a real world test, Car and Driver stated they stopped every 70 to 90 miles to charge. Other sources said it took an average of 1 hour per charge (at fast chargers only). No, I’m not downsizing to class B. No, I’m old, but not going to be limited to 90 miles per stop and charge. (I target 200miles max and stop for the day to enjoy some area or attraction). What if I’m traveling in the hot, humid south??? NOPE. And I occasionally go into the boonies. Ain’t no charging stations there.

Dave
25 days ago
Reply to  Andy Zipser

Excellent data

Joe
26 days ago

My son has a company that services, rehabs existing, and also builds new gas stations in what is considered a solid blue progressive area and state. For the past several years he has been making the suggestion to install level 3 charging stations however he stopped due to the lack of interest. He then tried to get them to at least identify an area for future charging stations and install the conduits and such however he has stopped suggesting this also to the lack of interest.