The Arizona Republic

Level the playing field so gas stations can charge EVs

- Your Turn Morten Jensen Guest columnist Morten Jensen is vice president for operations for the Grand Canyon division of Circle K. Reach him at

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 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.

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 utilityown­ed 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.

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.

 ?? DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES ?? Electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference at Union Station near Capitol Hill on April 22, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES Electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference at Union Station near Capitol Hill on April 22, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
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