Two weeks ago, I wrote an essay regarding the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and discussed what the future might hold for campgrounds. RV parks, with a plethora of 50-amp pedestals, are often seen as last-ditch filling stations for the current EV crowd.
The topic certainly is a popular (or unpopular) one among RVers, judging from the number of comments the article received. We’ll continue to look at the future for electric vehicles and other “green” options in coming weeks, including reviews of new vehicles and other new energy-saving devices for the RVing lifestyle.
Today, I thought it would be informative to visit with a campground owner in California (always the epicenter of green technology) who happens to own a traditional Chevron fuel station that also offers EV charging stations for Tesla vehicles.
Meet Gene Zanger, whose family has owned and operated the Casa de Fruta complex in Hollister, California, since the family planted its first fruit orchard there in 1908. The complex now includes not just a fruit stand, carousel, narrow-gauge railroad, mining sluice, wine store, and huge restaurant, but also a large Chevron station and the 250-site Casa de Fruta RV Park, which is affiliated with Good Sam.
It was Gene who last week provided me with the photo of the Tesla towing the Airstream Bambi. Here’s that shot again, along with another Gene took to prove that, yes, Tesla’s are indeed towing trailers.
Gene’s business is unique in that he has the RV park, the fruit stand/restaurant and the Chevron station that also has 20 charging stations for Tesla EVs.
Here are a few questions I posed to Gene about EVs, along with his responses:
When did you begin offering charging stations for electric vehicles?
Zanger: Tesla came to us two years ago and put in 20 charges at our Chevron station location. They don’t charge the Tesla owner a fee at the location for using the stations. There is a system that identifies the car so they don’t have to pay on the spot. These chargers can take a Tesla from dead to full in about a half-hour to 45 minutes.
How do Tesla owners find you?
Zanger: The cars all have screens that tell them where Tesla charging stations are located. They are even sophisticated enough to know which ones are in use and direct the driver to the nearest open station. It’s pretty slick.
Have you seen electric vehicles in your RV park?
Zanger: We have seen a few. But we don’t have designated charging stations in the park for Teslas or any other non-Tesla cars.
Do you allow EVs to charge in your campground?
Zanger: We have allowed some to come into the RV park and use our 50-amp service to give them enough power to get to their next stop. We are listed on some websites such as plugshare.com, where we are just one of the dots on their map. We are listed as someplace to charge “in a pinch.”
What are your plans for the future, as EVs become more popular?
Zanger: We’ve talked about adding more charging stations for a number of years, but it’s starting to make a lot more sense since we’ve put in a four-acre solar field. In California, you can get rebates for renewable energy credits. Those credits can be put into auctions and sold.
Have you considered working with the other existing EV charging companies?
Zanger: Most people would likely just work with the existing charging companies such as EVgo®, ChargePoint® or Electrify America®. They all have different programs. We do get a minimal rent payment from Tesla for the stations we have. The other guys seem loath to pay us any rent for space. They just want to set up their systems here. They don’t say much about how they make their money, but I suspect it involves the low carbon fuel credits.
Do you have to work with these companies?
Zanger: No. We may end up taking the path to do it ourselves. The existing companies won’t share their revenue. They think the ancillary income they bring to a business should be enough.
What would EV charging look like at the Casa de Fruta RV Park?
Zanger: I don’t think we’d put charging stations at the RV sites. We’d likely put them in a different location of the park.
What sort of options are out there right now for campground owners who may want to offer charging stations on their own?
Zanger: We’ve looked at a company called FreeWire Technologies. Their system involves a battery that plugs into your regular system to stay charged, and then discharges from the battery into the car. That way, you don’t have to have a transformer, a new power station, or a permit from PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company). But the cost right now is $162,000 for the setup.
Where do you ultimately see EV charging heading?
Zanger: I see a day when a significant portion of the regular car parking stalls at a business will have a charger of some sort.