The plan to install more than 1,000 public electric charging stations in the Kansas City area is excellent news for current and future drivers of electric cars. They will have a lot more places to plug in and fuel up.
A quick sidenote: In these highly partisan times, it’s not every project that can get a hearty thumbs-up from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon (“another great example of how Missouri continues to lead the way toward a more sustainable energy future”) and Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback (“an example of the strong partnerships that improve our communities”).
But it’s the larger picture that carries the potential of long-term rewards for the local economy and the environment. This is where Kansas City Power & Light leaders, elected officials and others need to focus their attention as the project rolls out.
KCP&L already has sketched out a sensible “Clean Charge Network” scheme that is placing many of the facilities in downtown Kansas City, in Johnson County and north of the Missouri River, and in surrounding communities such as St. Joseph and Warrensburg. The utility is still seeking other sites in the region.
If the charging stations are convenient to electric car drivers, who worry about whether their battery power will last until they get to their destination, then more buyers likely will come along for the vehicles.
The increased use of clean-burning electric vehicles also is better than dealing with the harmful tail-pipe emissions from gasoline-powered cars and trucks.
KCP&L already is spending million of dollars to clean up emissions from its coal-burning power plants. The utility, to its credit, is also investing in cleaner, renewable wind energy, while it recently announced plans to close or retrofit three smaller coal-fired plants.
All of these moves will help the utility produce power in cleaner ways, which will make charging electric cars even less of a burden on the environment.
That positive result is partly why the utility says it’s appropriate to dun ratepayers an estimated $1 to $2 a year for the public electric chargers.
In addition, KCP&L says the increased use of electric cars will spread the burden of paying for its grid to more people, making it more efficient to operate, while also drawing extra revenue from the power sold to owners of electric vehicles.
This project makes sense, even with the plummeting price of gasoline. One expert estimated 70 cents of electricity is equivalent to gasoline sold at $1.75 a gallon.
Finally, installing the charging stations also will bump up Kansas City’s image among millennials and others interested in coming to regions that are open to smart, progressive thinking on environmental and utility issues.
KCP&L is betting that this system could be successful and thus worth expanding. Already, the addition of more than 1,000 public charging stations will enable the Kansas City region to have more than every state except California.
That’s a significant accomplishment. This is a venture worth rooting for, given its potential to reduce pollution and make Kansas City a more attractive place to live.