Rocky Mountain Power to roll out 20 fast-charging stations for Utah EVs

The sites are not set yet, but they’re coming next year.

You’re on a road trip, and it’s time to charge your electric car.

Do you want to sit out by the highway and watch the cars go by for the 20 minutes or half hour it takes to charge?

Or would you rather be in the center of one of Utah’s historic small towns enjoying a slice of rural life?

Rocky Mountain Power is betting it’s the latter, and the utility is aiming its new network of EV charging stations in the center core of small towns rather than out on the edges.

“One of the things we’re looking to do is go to the old Main Streets,” said James Campbell, director of innovation and sustainability policy for Rocky Mountain’s parent company, PacifiCorp.

That sounds good to Amy Wilmarth, who owns the Green River Coffee Co. coffee shop in Green River, Utah. Wilmarth already has four Electrify America fast chargers at the shop, and she knows the value of getting visitors into town.

“They go and put gas stations at the end of town,” she said. “Then people don’t come into the community.”

She said when Electrify America approached her about leasing land for the chargers, they were also looking at a dirt lot near an Ace Hardware. They chose her shop instead because “there’s nothing for them there” at the hardware store. She said she has seen people plug in and walk to nearby restaurants in addition to her shop.

Wilmarth said she has “tried to go above and beyond” by providing trash receptacles and a windshield washing station, but she said it’s hard to gauge whether the chargers have helped her business. That’s in part because she has struggled to hire employees to keep the shop open in the post-pandemic world. The stations are available all hours.

(Sofia Jeremias | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tom Pritchard from Indiana charges his electric pickup truck at Green River Coffee Co.

Electrify America pays her $300 a month to place four chargers on her property. She doesn’t get a cut of the revenue the chargers produce, but she also doesn’t have to pay for the electricity they use. “They’re on their own grid.”

Rocky Mountain this week announced an agreement with Electrify America’s business arm, Electrify Commercial, to roll out 20 new charging stations that will be owned by the utility and feature Rocky Mountain’s branding on them.

“Electrify America operates roughly 3,500 fast chargers and hosts one of the largest public high powered direct current fast charging (DCFC) networks in the country that is accessible by all vehicle brands,” Rocky Mountain told the Utah Public Service Commission in its annual report on the company’s electric vehicle infrastructure program.

Electrify America’s fast chargers include 350-kilowatt chargers, which can provide hundreds of miles of range in less than a half hour’s charge.

Campbell said Electrify America was chosen because it is well positioned to provide the equipment needed. “They have bulk purchasing. The supply chain issues are a big challenge. Everybody competing with the same chargers that comply with the federal requirements.”

The new stations will be branded with Rocky Mountain Power’s logo. The first three are expected to open by early 2024. One will be in the Salt Lake City area. Another will be elsewhere on the Wasatch Front, and the third will be in the Moab area. All stations should be operational by 2025.

(Rocky Mountain Power) Photo mockup shows new charging stations with Rocky Mountain Power brands. Each station will have four fast chargers.

“With a shared commitment to increase EV adoption, reduce tailpipe emissions and improve air quality, we are excited to collaborate with Rocky Mountain Power to deliver 350 kW charging capability to EV drivers in Utah,” said Aaron Young, senior manager, commercial networks and fleets, at Electrify America.

Significantly, Rocky Mountain customers will pay less to charge at the stations. Campbell said RMP customers have been paying into a fund that bankrolls the charging network.

The price for charging is set by the Utah Public Service Commission, and all the stations will be the same rate.

For RMP customers, the chargers will be 27 cents per kilowatt hour during the peak period from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. At off-peak times, the charge drops to 22 cents. For non-RMP customers, the charge is 45 cents at peak times and 40 cents at off-peak times.

Rocky Mountain’s charging network only covers the geographic area where RMP operates in Utah, which includes most of the state. The company is seeking funding for the stations through the federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program (NEVI).

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Lyle McMillan, strategic investments director for UDOT, said Rocky Mountain’s plan includes 12 of the 15 charging stations that are needed under NEVI to meet the requirement of having charging stations at least every 50 miles on interstate highways and “major fuel corridors,” which in Utah includes U.S. 6 from Spanish Fork to Green River and U.S. 191 from Moab to the Arizona state line.

McMillan said UDOT is about to open its bid process for NEVI money, and Rocky Mountain is expected to apply. He also expects to see other applicants, including for the other three stations outside Rocky Mountain’s territory. Those are in Morgan, Nephi and Monticello. He said the applicants for those stations could be gas stations or other existing businesses. They also could be locations on Main Streets, he said, but he noted that NEVI requires the stations to be within a mile of the highway.

Getting this first level of charging up and running is important because it will open up another pile of NEVI money to expand the network. McMillan said the “private sector is stepping up” to build out charging stations in urban areas, noting the recent announcement from Kroger to install chargers at their grocery stores, including Smith’s in Utah.

“Where we would like to accelerate access is in the rural areas,” he said. “We want people to see our beautiful scenery in whatever transportation they want.”

(Sofia Jeremias | The Salt Lake Tribune) Californian Bill Monsen charges his electric car at the only fast-charging station in Green River next to Green River Coffee Co.

Rocky Mountain’s report also detailed its incentive programs for businesses and individuals to buy their own chargers. The company has awarded nearly $450,000 to 30 businesses - mostly apartments – to install EV chargers. RMP also has awarded small grants (maximum of $200) for home chargers to 68 applicants. That’s about half of the homeowners who applied for the grants.

Campbell said the ones who were turned down were generally Tesla owners who wanted the subsidy for Tesla chargers, but the incentives are only available for chargers that work across all brands.