Photo: Electrify America

Driving Cross-Country in an Electric Vehicle Keeps Getting Easier

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Aug 28, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Last week, Electrify America, which operates one of the largest electric vehicle (EV) charging networks in the United States, announced a partnership with truck stop and convenience store operator Love’s Travel Stops. Together, they’ll expand their cross-country routing of charging stations by developing 28 new, ultra-fast EV charging stations at the common highway travel centers in six states — New York, Oklahoma, Florida, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Many are open, and all are set to be completed by early 2021.

“Providing EV drivers with the opportunity to charge their vehicles at Love’s locations will help instill confidence for longer interstate trips, and can encourage more consumers to consider making the switch to electric,” said Rachel Moses, senior manager for site acquisition, development and strategy at Electrify America, in a press release.

That statement highlights the increasing ease of driving cross-country in an electric vehicle. Electrify America is set to complete the second of its cross-country highway charging station routes this year, and has helped make it possible to drive across nearly all of the contiguous US without having to worry about running out of charge.

This is not just a great win for the climate. It’s also emblematic of a growing economic shift. While the number of gas stations still greatly outnumbers the number of EV charging stations — somewhere around 1.2 million to 50,000 — the ratio of electric vehicles to charging stations is now significantly better than the ratio of gas pumps to traditional cars, according to EVAdoption.

Putting charging stations at existing gas stations and travel stops eliminates the need for the development of specific charging centers, allowing drivers to make only the same stop for fuel, snacks, and restrooms as they would have in traditional vehicles. This keeps money flowing into travel centers and the towns where they are located. A 350 kW charger like the ones being installed at Love’s Travel Stops can add 20 miles of range per minute in many EV models. With Ford and other major auto manufacturers pledging to produce increasingly higher quantities of electric vehicles, travel centers and convenience stores will see a growing benefit to having EV charging stations.

This connects to the broadest takeaway from the six months of positive sustainability news coverage in this column: The adoption of sustainable practices scales when it meshes with economic flow, and it scales at a much faster rate when it benefits the economy. For travelers, this is huge because if the global carbon footprint of transportation goes down, the ability to move across town, and even around the country, is less harmful to the places we visit.

This also makes powering transportation through renewable sources increasingly cheaper than not doing so. And this, of course, allows more people to visit new places, which in turn leads to an increased desire to protect those places — but that’s another story in itself.

More climate wins

Adding EV charging stations may be something that convenience stores and travel centers opt for sooner than later, given current economic trends. Bloomberg reported that Exxon was booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average this week, a major blow to the oil and gas giant that had been the DJIA’s longest-running stock. Pfizer Inc. and Raytheon Technologies Corp. were also given the boot, all being replaced by tech giants, a sign that the stock market and its major indexes might be getting “woke” — at least slightly.

Chicago is getting a massive new urban farm. Waste Dive reported that a community group has secured grant funding to turn a nine-acre brownfield into an urban farm. The farm is set to be almost entirely circular. Green Era Sustainability will compost the farm’s waste, and the farm’s urban location makes it a massive step toward environmental justice in the city. Part of that waste will generate what’s known as “renewable natural gas,” a biomethane gas that is converted to have similar properties as fossil-fuel natural gas, and sold to BP.

A study published in the journal Optics Express has found an efficient way to harvest energy from the air even when the sun isn’t shining. They’re known as anti-solar panels, and use a process called “optimal radiative cooling” to generate energy by converting the difference between the temperature of the air and that of a specially cooled area of the panel. The result is passive nighttime power generation that can complement the passive daytime power generation created by traditional solar panels. This could revolutionize renewable energy production, particularly in developing areas and in countries located near the poles, which see massive fluctuations in the amount of available daylight throughout the year.

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