What’s the story? Kansas City Power & Light and Independence Power and Light have installed EV charging stations across the Eastern Jackson County area to make it more accessible for electronic vehicle owners to charge their battery at no cost.
Why is this important to me? The availability of these EV charging stations has expanded since 2015 and there could be a cost for using some of the stations beginning next year. There is a sidebar with all of the locations of the charging station in the area.
With the rise in popularity of fully electric vehicles, Kansas City Power & Light knew it had to cater to the market.
In 2015, KCP&L started calling businesses all around the Kansas City area to see which ones wanted to host EV charging stations to recharge the battery in an electric vehicle. Those batteries power a car much as gasoline does a traditional vehicle.
So far, as part of the company’s Clean Charge program, KCP&L has installed more than 1,000 of those stations in the Kansas City area, including 147 in Grain Valley, Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Oak Grove and Unity Village combined. The cost of the project totaled about $20 million.
“Our service area goes all the way up to almost the Iowa border and goes down to almost Springfield and east to Columbia,” said Jeffrey Beeson, who leads the company’s Clean Charge Program.
“Our customers asked for them. There was a need in our metro to eliminate what we call range anxiety. That’s (when) the driver might not know where to drive next. People were afraid to buy an electric car in 2015 because they didn’t know where they could charge up. Thanks to our network, we’ve eliminated that. We get stats on electronic car sales every quarter and in 2017, the Kansas City area has been the No. 1 area in the nation in electronic car sales growth. We’re outpacing other big metros. When we put our network up, that’s when the growth of car sales went up.”
The requests from companies to host these stations has been more frequent this year, Beeson added.
“Most of the time, businesses reach out to us,” Beeson said. “We get requests every day. They realize the importance of having these. When you think of a grocery store or a retailer, they want people to go to their grocery store. It’s a sales initiative that if they have charging stations, those customers will come.
“They not only go to the grocery store, but they might stay there a little bit longer because they are waiting for their car to charge. That helps them pick up on their sales.”
Independence Power and Light also has installed charging stations. Its network isn't nearly as large as KCP&L's, as it has only two locations for those, but it’s something they have considered doing in the future, acting director Andrew Boatright said.
“There hasn’t been a high usage of our stations,” Boatright said. “One of our stations was funded partially by grant. We are closely following the activity around the VW (Volkswagen) settlement (which could award $50 million to 20 states, including Missouri, to help mitigate the excess emissions of nitrogen oxides from Volkswagen diesel vehicles), and the money that could become available to Independence and the region from that settlement.
“There may be more widespread use of electric vehicles in the area. It’s something we know that is coming and we have to be prepared for it.”
So how do these stations work?
An electric vehicle has a port similar to a gas tank. An EV driver can pull up to one of these stations and insert a plug into the port. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to fully charge a car depending on the type of vehicle and the amount of battery power remaining. Typically, there are two plug-ins per station.
“When people are public charging, they are not waiting until it’s at zero," Beeson said. “They are probably using it more like their cell phone where they are plugging it in throughout the day.”
Currently, it’s free to use the EV charging stations. From 2015-16, the cost of electricity was paid for by the host location. This year, a grant from Nissan covered the cost. But at the beginning 2018, each business that hosts a station will have the option to charge customers for usage or have the stations remain free.
What do drivers think?
“It’s nice that some stores in the area have them,” said Amber Mann, owner of a Nissan Leaf. “One of the biggest benefits right now is that it’s free, but I heard that will change at the beginning of the year. I am a little concerned about that.”
Brandon Schleichert, who also owns a Nissan Leaf, said the future charges won’t be as terrible as some might think.
“I did the math, it would roughly cost 25-30 (cents) to charge my car for three hours,” he said.
Across the country, EV drivers do pay a fraction of what filling the tank with gasoline would cost.
There are other benefits, too, Beeson noted.
“None of these cars even have a tailpipe,” he said. “Those (electric vehicles) are combustion engines off our streets. What comes out of (a gasoline powered vehicle) is dirtier than what comes out of a coal power plant. A EV is a clean, sustainable vehicle and helps our area stay cleaner.”
While there are a multitude of benefits of owning an electric vehicle, there are some drawbacks to having an electric car. That includes that charging stations are not as widespread as gasoline stations currently and it can sometimes take several hours to fully charge an EV.
“With a normal car, you are usually within a five to 10 minute drive of a gas station,” Schleichert said. “That’s not the case with (the charging stations). But it helps that I have an app that lets me know where they are all at and which ones I can use. Even when they charge for the use of the stations, it still saves us on fuel costs. You just have to plan your life around charging the car.”
Charging stations in the Eastern Jackson County area
• Walmart, 11601 E. US 40 Highway (3 charging stations)
• Truman Medical Center-Lakewood, 7900 Lee’s Summit Road (3 charging stations)
• Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center, 18011 E. Bass Pro Dr. (1 charging station)
• Independence Power and Light, 213-291 N. Lynn St. (1 charging station)
• City of Independence Central Utility, 17221 E. 23rd St. S. (3 charging stations)
• Best Western, 4825 NE Lakewood Way (3 charging stations)
• Hy-Vee, 301 NE Rice Road (1 charging station)
• Lee’s Summit Nissan, 1025 SE Oldham Parkway (1 charging station)
• 220 SE Green (1 charging station)
• Hy-Vee, 310 SW Ward Rd. (2 charging stations)
• John Knox Village, 608 NW Pryor Rd. (4 charging stations)
• St. Luke's Hospital, 178 NE Lukes Blvd. (3 charging stations)
• Lee’s Summit Hospital, 2100 SE Blue Parkway (2 charging stations)
• Price Chopper, 1100 S. 7 Highway (1 charging station)
• City Hall, 903 W. Main St. (3 charging stations)
• Hy-Vee, 625 SW US 40 Highway (2 charging stations)
• Blue Springs Fieldhouse, 425 NE Mock Ave. (3 charging stations)
• Adams Dairy Bank, 651 NE Coronado Dr. (2 charging stations)
• St. Luke's Clinic, 600 Adams Dairy Parkway (3 charging stations)
• Kohls, 1280 NE Coronado Dr. (3 charging stations)
• City Hall, 711 S. Main St. (3 charging stations)
• Walmart, 201 SE Salem St. (1 charging station)
• Unity Village Hotel & Conference Center, 1900 Unity Way (4 charging stations)
• Unity Village Fitness Center, 1901 NW Blue Parkway (2 charging stations)