The Electric Highwayman: Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich

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By Thomas Mitchell

Think of it as an electric oasis — a place to stop and recharge your electric vehicle as you caravan across the high desert to pay homage to the lords of government in Carson City or do whatever they do in Reno.

Only, you can’t get there from here.

According to media accounts, Gov. Brian Sandoval took time this past week to travel to Beatty, presumably not by electric car, to dedicate the state’s first electric car recharging station. Three more are planned along the 450 miles of Highway 95 between Las Vegas and Reno. It is dubbed the Electric Highway by the word crafters in state government.

We are apparently to pay no attention to the fact most electric cars have a range of less than 100 miles before requiring a recharge and the distance from downtown Las Vegas to Beatty is nearly 120 miles. (We doubt it was intentional that Beatty was chosen to be the first because it is the jumping off point for Death Valley and the ghost town of Rhyolite, such symbolism is usually lost on bureaucrats.)

To demonstrate this recharging station for the assembled press, Sandoval recharged a Ford Focus from the state Department of Transportation fleet in Las Vegas. Since the car has a range of only 76 miles, it had to be hauled to the ceremony from Las Vegas.

And even if your electric car could reach the recharging station at Eddie World in Beatty, plan on spending a little time at Eddie World, because most of the outlets require four hours to recharge, though a couple can do an 80 percent recharge in half an hour. But we doubt there will be long lines for those “speedy” outlets, since few will be able to coast that far.

But once you have charged your typical electric vehicle you can get as far north as, say, Goldfield, where you can call for a tow truck to take you the next 26 miles to the next recharging station, if and when it is built in Tonopah.

After your half-hour to four-hour layover in Tonopah, someday, you might make it as far as Mina or Luning before calling for a tow to the next recharging station in Hawthorne — 103 miles from Tonopah.

But after the layover in Hawthorne, you just might make it to the next station, if and when it is built, in Fallon, a mere 71 miles away, but you’ll be cutting it close.

Then there is Nevada’s weather factor. Researchers have found that the range of an electric car drops more than half when the temperature dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and by a third when temperatures rise above 95 degrees.

But if can get there, you can charge up your expensive electric toy for free courtesy of the state and the local electric utility for the next five years.

According to the Governor’s Office of Energy, these recharging stations are being paid for by taxpayers and the ratepayers of NV Energy and Valley Electric Association, to the tune of $15,000 apiece or so, plus that free electricity.

“This really is significant for us,” the governor was quoted as saying. “Just think about it. This is the first electric highway in the United States. And when I talk about the New Nevada, it’s significant steps like this that show the rest of the country that we are tech savvy, especially when it comes to electric cars and autonomous vehicles.”

Absurd.

The state is planning a second phase, which calls for stations on Interstate 80 — targeted for Fernley, Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Elko — as well as a station in Austin on U.S. 50 and at the junction of Interstate 15 and U.S. 93. Additional stations are planned for Wendover, Eureka, Ely and Lincoln County.

OK, Tesla Motors, the recipient of $1.3 billion in state tax abatements and credits for its battery factory near Sparks, does have a couple of models that are supposed to get more than 200 miles per charge, but they cost upwards of $75,000.

Robbing from the poor to give to the frequently idle — while recharging — rich.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.

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