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EV Charging Is Coming to Truck Stops and Curbsides

Electric vehicle charging developments are making car charging increasingly ubiquitous across the American landscape, with chargers in familiar travel locations like truck stops and curbside parking spaces.

Itselectric has developed a curbside charging port for electric vehicles.
Submitted Photo/ itselectric
The growth of electric vehicle adoption, and multipronged efforts to advance public charging technology and availability, is unlocking innovations in areas like curbside charging and introducing charging plugs at locations as familiar as gas stations.

Love’s Travel Stops, a nationwide brand of travel plazas serving heavy-duty trucks and passenger vehicles, is adding electric vehicle charging to its offerings. Four locations in Pennsylvania will feature high-speed chargers for EVs as part of the Trillium Energy Solutions network.

Funding for the project was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as part of the state’s participation in the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, a key component of the federal infrastructure building initiative.

Drivers frustrated with glitchy payment platforms on EV chargers can put away their phones at Love’s and simply walk into the sprawling retail facility, and pay for the charging with the store clerk.

“EV customers can pay on the charger network app, pay at the charger, and you can pay inside Love’s Travel Stop stores,” explained Kim Okafor, general manager of zero-emission solutions for Trillium and Love’s Travel Stops, in an email. “At Love’s, our customers will have the benefit of a representative always available 24-7 inside our stores.”

Travel plazas like Love’s have become sensitive to the needs and wants of travelers, offering dining options, gourmet coffee, snacks, dog parks and even laundry facilities, making them attractive stops for travelers who may need to pull off the road for an hour to let the car charge.

The Colorado Department of Transportation made a similar award to Love’s operations at existing stations in Buena Vista, Eads, Parachute and Hudson.

“Truck stops and travel stops are well-positioned to play a key role in building out electric vehicle charging in Pennsylvania and Colorado, not only because of the existing infrastructure footprint, but also because of the amenities and services provided at these locations,” said Ryan Erickson, vice president of Trillium Energy Solutions, in a statement.

For those drivers unable to walk into a retail center and personally pay for their charging sessions, technology is rapidly developing toward the seamless plug-and-charge approach.

"Payment processing errors remain one of the most common and frustrating aspects of public recharging,” remarked Bhaskar Deol, CEO and co-founder of eDRV, a technology company that has developed an API platform for EV charging networks to easily upgrade existing chargers to the plug-and-charge model, which will become a NEVI requirement next year.

“Plug-and-charge technology streamlines many of these processes and creates a seamless, enjoyable charging experience that requires no apps or credit card swipes,” said Deol.

Companies like itselectric and SWTCH Energy want to bring car charging to the curb, in a move as a revenue-sharing agreement with the property owner. Itselectric has developed a small, sleek Level 2 charger that can mount unobtrusively at the curbside. The device connects to the electric panel of an adjoining property. Itselectric members are issued a charging cable — which holds vehicle and payment information — to be stored in the vehicle when not in use.

“Local building owners gain an additional stream of revenue by allowing EV chargers to use their excess electrical capacity,” Tiya Gordon, COO and co-founder of itselectric, said.

SWTCH technology is already found in areas like multifamily housing, where EV chargers have been added while simultaneously not placing an undue burden on the building’s electric capacity. In the partnership with itselectric, the company will provide the software backbone, said Carter Li, CEO of SWTCH, handling driver billing, monitoring maintenance alerts and more.

“The ideal customers for these curbside charging stations are EV drivers — or aspiring EV drivers — living in an urban environment that lacks the possibility of home charging,” said Gordon.

More than 800,000 new electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2022, according to Cox Automotive, up 65 percent since 2021. The strong growth came even as overall car sales declined in 2022.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.