The growth of electric vehicles in Arizona has created new opportunities for fuel retailers.
No other industry has the locations, the amenities and the experience that drivers have come to expect when they make a pit stop on their journeys, and fuel retailers like Circle K are expanding services to include high-speed EV charging.
This comes as a surprise to some people who assume traditional refueling stations view EV charging as a threat to our existence.
However, at Circle K, our vision is to be the world’s preferred destination for convenience and mobility. That means regardless of what you need to power your vehicle – whether it is gas, diesel, ethanol or electricity – we simply want to be able to serve it to you.
This is something we hope Arizona’s policymakers keep in mind as they consider ways to expand EV charging infrastructure in a way that ensures a level playing field.
Arizona needs more EV charging stations
Arizona is home to nearly 41,000 electric vehicles as of June, ranking seventh in the country according to U.S. Department of Energy data. Many of those EV drivers charge up at home in the evening, but any driver venturing beyond their vehicle’s range will need a high-speed charger where they can stop and charge up on the go.
According to research from EVAdoption, Arizona has just 409 high-speed charging ports throughout the state, putting us on par with states that have thousands fewer EVs and far less square mileage to cover.
We and our industry peers operate thousands of fueling locations across Arizona situated where our customers need them most – along major highways and thoroughfares as well as on street corners in virtually every community across the state.
Yet when it comes to bringing EV charging solutions to the market, we have found we are at a disadvantage to Arizona’s power companies.
Right now, these utilities – through requests with the Arizona Corporation Commission – can get all of their commercial and residential customers to cover the cost of building, owning and operating EV charging stations without any real overhead risk.
Utilities have a competitive advantage
Instead, private businesses like Circle K, who have played a key role in keeping our communities moving for many years must invest hundreds of thousands of dollars at every EV charging site while also incurring huge monthly fees over and above the price of electricity, called demand charges, from the power companies.
Tilting this playing field in favor of the publicly regulated monopolies would dramatically slow the development of EV charging infrastructure and saddle all of us not only with higher costs but also create a situation that favors bad service over the needs of EV customers.
How? The utilities own none of the prime locations where drivers will want to stop and charge up.
Private retailers already own the ideal charging station locations throughout Arizona, with thousands of gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores offering the snacks, beverages and services that drivers want when refueling.
When utilities enter the charging market, they typically have to set up their chargers in locations that have not already been claimed by existing retailers.
That’s why it’s common to see utility-owned charging stations in the back of remote parking lots or next to government buildings – not exactly the places where a road-tripper or commuter in need of an EV charger would naturally turn, nor the safe and secure locations that our customers on the road are used to.
Drivers need more convenient options
Also, with utilities taking on no real risk, and with the disadvantages faced by the private sector due to demand charges, there is little incentive for competition.
We are constantly innovating and bringing new products and services to our stores at Circle K because we know our competitors are constantly improving what they do. This dynamic will not exist in the EV charging marketplace if it is solely controlled by the power companies.
There is a solution on the table.
Sen. Frank Carroll has filed common sense legislation that will fix the broken EV charging marketplace. Senate Bill 1501 would prohibit utilities from using ratepayer funds to subsidize the cost of utility-owned EV charging stations, and it would eliminate exclusive deals for power companies seeking to control the market.
Any entity offering EV charging would operate in a competitive free market, where supply and demand dictate cost.
The legislation is supported by Chevron, Marathon, QuikMart, Shell and other members that make up Arizona Petroleum Marketers Association and Americans for Affordable Clean Energy.
If Arizona wishes to remain a leader in EV adoption, lawmakers need to act now to ensure that the EV charging market can grow in a fair, equitable way that effectively and conveniently meets the needs of Arizona drivers.
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