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OPINION | NWA EDITORIAL: Feelin' electric

State program seeks to add charging stations by NWA Democrat-Gazette | February 23, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
FILE - In this Oct. 16. 2019, file photo a driver plugs in the Charge Point electric plug into his Tesla car at a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles. Experts expect most new cars sold in 2030 to be electric. The Biden administration promised 550,000 charging stations to help with the transition to electric cars.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

It sounds like a Mel Brooks film.

"Range anxiety" starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Elon Musk.

It's not the latest from Hollywood, though. Maybe because it would be challenging for an electric car driver, at least these days, to get all the way to Arkansas in an electric car. Oh, cross-country is possible, but you'd better be a planner, and also very, very patient. Most publicly accessible chargers need hours to get that battery back up to 100 percent and full range.

Thus the term "range anxiety." It can be stressful trying to be sure one has enough fuel to get from Point A to Point B. Even if a gas-driven motorist has three-fourths of a full tank when he hits one of those "Next Service: 105 miles" signs out west, most will pull into that last gas station to top off the tank.

Most Arkansans aren't yet drivers of electric cars that require charging. We're not, but we appreciate the concept. Still, we'd never heard of range anxiety until last week, reading a story in this paper about an planned expansion of electric vehicle charging stations in the Natural State.

The Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment has launched a program to expand the number of charging outlets in the state. Using nearly $1 million from Volkswagen's environmental mitigation fund, it's providing rebates for private and public installations of Level 2 EV stations. Those aren't the slowest or fastest charging stations, but they do take generally require several hours to "fill up" an electric car.

That's got to help with the anxiety a little bit, right?

Statistically, Arkansas doesn't rank very well when it comes to electric vehicle support (but can still say "Thank goodness for Mississippi" -- as well as states like Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Alaska). Right now, there are just 1,709 electric vehicles registered in a state with 4.1 million.

The movement toward critical mass, however, is building. General Motors recently said it would eliminate gasoline and diesel in its light-duty cars and SUVs by 2025. And the federal government is working on plans to shift federal, state, local and tribal fleets to "clean and zero-emission vehicles."

The idea of the charging program is to make electric vehicles a more viable option for drivers. Why? Because no matter how long it's going to take in Arkansas, enthusiasm for electric vehicles will grow in the years ahead as people get more serious about consumption of fossil fuels, the pollution it represents and, perhaps, the costs of gas and diesel.

But don't everyone go out and buy their electric vehicle just yet. As parents tell the kids on any long trip, no, we're not there yet.

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What’s the point?

Arkansas has a long way to go, but a new program will help spark more activity in the electric vehicle market.

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