The parking lot between the Panera Bread and Dunkin’ Donuts off Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in the Walk at Highwoods Preserve is undergoing a transformation that should charge some people up.
If they have the right kind of car, that is.
What is currently a fenced-in site with little hint of what’s to come will soon be an electric car charging station, part of an Electrify America network that is aggressively expanding across the country.
The New Tampa location is one of 484 sites that will be finished by the end of June.
The location, in one of New Tampa’s busier breakfast and lunchtime locations, is exactly what Electrify America is looking for, according to company spokesman Mike Moran. While Moran says the proximity to I-75 is ideal, so are the variety of things to do for those waiting for their car to fully charge.
Although the technology continues to improve, to charge an electric car can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours or even overnight, so stations are often located in high-amenity areas and at many hotels.
“It’s a combination of many things, really,” Moran says. “But part of the criteria is we are looking for places that are accessible and also provide an opportunity to other amenities, like shopping, food and beverages and other facilities.”
Most automakers are working on, or are already producing, electric cars, or EVs (for electric vehicles). Sales of EVs in 2018 were up 81 percent over the previous, with 361,307 sales nationwide, according to InsideEVs.com.
Many of the sales are being driven by the price of fueling up with gas, as well as awareness and concern over the effect that fuel emissions have on the environment.
Ironically, it was an emissions scandal that led to the creation of Electrify America.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of German automaker Volkswagen, Electrify America was created in the aftermath of an emissions scandal in 2015 in which Volkswagen was discovered to have programmed roughly 11 million cars, including 500,000 in the U.S., to activate their emissions controls only during testing. Outside the testing facilities, however, it was discovered its cars were emitting 40 times more nitrogen oxide than allowed by the Clean Air Act.
As part of its settlement with the U.S., Volkswagen agreed to invest $2 billion over 10 years in U.S. EV infrastructure, which includes new stations as well as educational initiatives, and launched Electrify America in 2018.
More stations could prompt more sales. One major issue with owning an electric car remains the range of your vehicle, and where to power up in a pinch. While a high majority of EV owners have a charging station at home, one of the by-products of owning an EV, especially for those with long commutes or looking to make a long trip, is finding a station when you need one, aka “range-anxiety.”
But that is slowly changing.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, there were 61,067 electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. in 2018. That number has increased every year since 2008, with the fastest growth coming the past three years, with annual growth of roughly 10,000 stations since 2015.
There are about 3,000 public charging stations in Florida, compared to more than 20,000 in California, which has the most.
The Electrify America station isn’t the first EV charging station in New Tampa. In fact, there are PlugShare charging stations at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Galbraith Rd. right behind The Walk at Highwoods Preserve, as well as two PlugShare charging stations at the USF Federal Credit Union on BBD.
There also is a ChargePoint Charging Station located on Amberly Drive in the parking lot of the JAEB Center For Health Research, and Plug-In America has stations at Wesley Chapel Nissan, Honda and Chevrolet, as well as a handful of stations in and around the Tampa Premium Outlets.
Tesla, which uses proprietary charging stations, has plans to build a station near the Super Target on County Line Rd. sometime this year, according to its website.