On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, when I hope the prices of automotive fuel had reached their peak, I think everybody in America had become all too familiar with the term “pain at the pump.” To add insult to injury, all three of the vehicles that my wife and I own and drive are diesels. These turbo diesels are highly fuel-efficient, and we drove my car, which gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway. We saw diesel prices on the side of I-78 as high as $6.099 per gallon, and I considered myself lucky to fill up at $5.199 on the return trip, using a discount card at a convenience store chain in Scranton.
Even if the price of fuel settles a bit, two things are clear: One is that more and more campers will want to turn to either seasonal camping or incentives where they will be allowed to leave their campers on-site between weekends. The other is that campgrounds are going to be seeing more and more electric vehicles (EVs) as time goes on … and this time will be much sooner than expected. This is a market that smart campground owners will cater to, not discourage.
Few campgrounds prohibit pets because that would decimate their potential pool of campers. Instead, they allow pets and have appropriate rules and associated fees. On the same token, campgrounds should welcome drivers of EVs. I have seen some campgrounds that either foolishly prohibit EVs or charge fees that are far in excess of the actual electric usage costs of charging. On a pre-pandemic vacation in California, I rented a Tesla and went out of my way to favor restaurants and other businesses with charging stations.
If you are seeking to attract new campers, consider the statistics. According to the manufacturer, Tesla built and delivered nearly 1,000,000 vehicles in 2021, which represented an 87% increase in numbers over 2020. Compare that with only 726,000 Ford F-Series pickups, which are the best-selling vehicles in America. The Tesla Model Y and Model 3 are among the 20 top-selling vehicles in the United States today. You probably know that Ford will be introducing its 2022 F-150 Lightning within the coming days, an EV that is designed for towing a camper.
Can Your Park Handle the Load?
Before you think that EV charging is going to dim your lights and blow your circuit breakers, bear in mind that you have probably already upgraded your electrical infrastructure to accommodate big rigs with multiple air conditioning units that can draw tens of thousands of watts of power during the course of the day. When charging, a typical EV will consume a steady amount of power (unless it is plugged in at a Tesla Supercharger station) of about 7,000 watts and 32 amps. On the other hand, a single air conditioning unit in a big rig might use 3,200 watts and 27 amps at startup, then settling down to about 1,200 watts and 10 amps. Power hogs such as microwave ovens will consume their power in surges. If your park has 600-amp service and is already equipped with 50-amp pedestals, you or your electrician can do the math to determine how many EVs can be charging at any one time, along with what you can charge their owners for their use of the service and what they are willing to pay, keeping in mind that Tesla owners are used to paying 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour at conventional charging stations. Most EVs will charge overnight, when temperatures have cooled down and air conditioner and appliance usages are lower.
Your customer will either have the necessary NEMA 14-50 adapter for 240 volt level 2 charging or could buy one in your store, another potential profit point. Talk with your electrical products provider, but an EV and an RV can often coexist on a single 50-amp power pedestal. According to the RVIA, KOA is currently in the process of installing level 2 chargers at KOA parks across the United States and Canada, using power pedestals supplied by Jamestown Advanced Products. KOA’s decision was no doubt based in part upon its most recent study, which found that one out of five campers owns an EV, significantly higher than the statistics for non-campers and the general public.
Another option for getting on board is to see if your business qualifies for one or more free charging stations (valued at $500.00 each) from Tesla. The primary requirements are that your business has a significant volume of drive-in traffic and that you will be willing to provide the electrical work. This could accommodate customers who are not otherwise occupying a campsite with a 50-amp power pedestal – tenters, for example. If your park provides non-camping related services, such as a restaurant, swimming lake or miniature golf course, these charging stations definitely offer the potential of increasing your business revenue, both in charging fees and indirect sales. In fact, the navigation systems in Tesla vehicles will even guide drivers directly to your location. To see if you qualify, go here: https://www.tesla.com/charging-partners
It’s Time to Get on Board
Electric vehicles are not the latest pet rock. They are here to stay. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021, includes $5 billion in funding to add a network of 500,000 new charging stations along our nation’s highways, with additional funding that is earmarked for rural locations. This will help to make EVs all the more practical and affordable to own and operate, with a target that EVs will account for 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030. Remember when some park owners balked at the thought of providing WiFi to their campers? They suddenly faced the realization that WiFi was the most sought-after amenity at campgrounds. Take the lead rather than being left behind when it comes to EV charging stations at your park!
This post was written by Peter Pelland