From distance to the power grid, electric vehicles face a fair share of challenges in rural Idaho


Editor’s Note: To learn more about a new proposal to add electric vehicle charging stations to Idaho highways, read this story.

In 2003, Christiane Rudd became an early adopter of hybrid vehicles. She bought her first hybrid, a Toyota Prius which she drove for 18 years, before switching to a newer and more efficient Hyundai Ioniq, a plug-in hybrid that runs on a pure electric motor before using its gasoline engine .

The Ioniq’s use of electricity and fossil fuels made it the “perfect” car to drive in Idaho, the Boise resident said. Rudd uses the 27-mile charge from the small electric motor to run errands, and with no charging stations on Idaho’s highways, she uses a standard gasoline engine for long car trips to see her family. in Utah.

Rudd said she originally wanted to go for a full electric vehicle, but couldn’t quite commit due to the roughly 200-mile limit that most electric vehicles have on a charge. When she discovered the plug-in hybrid, Rudd said she was thrilled to have found a car that would seamlessly switch from an electric vehicle to a gasoline-powered hybrid while she was driving.

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“The plug-in hybrid is the answer, right now, for people who live in places like Idaho where you have to go a very long way anyway, and the pure EV won’t meet your needs if that’s is your only vehicle,” Rudd said.

However, the Idaho Department of Transportation is trying to catch up with technology and formula one plan to install EV charging stations approximately every 50 miles along many of Idaho’s interstate and national highways.

Idaho’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan is expected to be approved Sept. 30 and includes $4.4 million in funding from the Federal Highway Commission for the first year. Over the next four years, $6.3 million per year will be allocated to the project. Public feedback on the location of the charging stations was collected by ITD throughout June and early July.

Idaho residents face EV charging issues

Idaho faces unique challenges when it comes to residents’ ability to transition to an electric vehicle network, including how to charge such a vehicle.

There are three levels of charging stations for electric vehicles. Level one, which plugs into a standard outlet, and level two, which provides faster charging but requires at least 208-240 volts, can be installed in a home. Most homes wouldn’t be able to handle a DC fast charger, the type of charger found in most public charging places.

Idaho has 108 public charging stations who are level two and above. Most neighboring states have significantly more charging stations, with Wyoming and Montana being the exceptions. Washington has more than 1,600 stations statewide, Oregon has 917, Utah has installed nearly 850, and California has more than 14,300.

Nathan Bingham, director of strategy and technology at POWER Engineers, said that of the three types of charging stations, people driving electric vehicles should plug into at least a level two charger in order to charge their car in a decent amount of time while on the road. Even so, a level two charger could take several hours to charge an electric vehicle to full capacity.

How an Idaho company is integrating electric vehicles into its fleet

Idaho’s regular individual consumers like Rudd aren’t the only ones interested in using electric vehicles. Lynnette Roberts, insurance manager at POWER Engineers, said the company had undergone extensive testing to purchase an electric vehicle for its Idaho and Kansas sites.

Most of their concerns about using an electric vehicle for work purposes centered on the range it had, and Roberts said an employee was forced to call a tow truck for the Chevrolet Bolt after running out of power during testing.

Another concern the company had was with charging times. Roberts said a drive that would normally have taken someone five hours was extended to eight hours when the driver stopped to charge and the voltage wasn’t as fast as advertised. It wasn’t a problem with the car, it was the charging station, according to Roberts.

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When it comes to being able to handle rough terrain and hard work, Roberts said POWER always uses three-quarter-ton pickups because there are no electric options that could last through the hard work. public services that some of the teams do.

Rudd said she charges her car at home while she sleeps, and since she has a plug-in hybrid, she hasn’t noticed an increase in her electric bill. Bingham said plugging in an electric vehicle would be like adding a hot tub or another clothes dryer to the house. But he said he feared that as electric vehicles become more popular everyone will charge them at night like a mobile phone and that could cause problems for the power grid.

Bingham said we have a good foundation for Idaho’s electric grid to handle more electric vehicle charging, but improvements need to be made. These include updating older homes with aging electrical systems that cannot handle the power needed to charge an electric vehicle and improving access for utilities.

“As we look at bringing electric vehicles into our homes, starting with a charging schedule and starting to move away from the mindset of always wanting to fill it up as quickly as possible is what we will need to do. “Bingham said. “It’s a little different from what we’re used to.”

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