Kansas City utility embraces electric car infrastructure: “If you build it, they will come”

Kansas City Power & Light is in the electricity business. With the popularity of residential solar power systems exploding, the company is anxious to find new customers for the electrons it has for sale.

In order to remain relevant in the future, it has decided to include electric and plug in hybrid cars in a $20,000,000 embrace. KCP&L thinks more charging stations will end range anxiety, which will promote sales of more electric vehicles. And that will mean the sale of more kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Before the end of 2015, it will dramatically expand the electric car infrastructure in the Kansas City area by installing more than 1,000 Level 2 electric recharging stations in its service area. In addition, it will add 15 Nissan branded DC fast charging stations to its Clean Charge Network.

Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman says having more chargers in the market raises awareness of EVs: “It’s like having an advertisement for electric cars. [Customers] see the charging station, and it reminds them those charging stations exist.” Nissan will pay the cost of all the electricity needed to power those fast chargers for the first two years.

What makes KCP&L’s move so bold is that, at the moment, there are only about 1,000 electric and plug in vehicles in the entire Kansas City area. Having 1,000 recharging stations available will give Kansas City as many charging points as major EV hot spots like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

“It’s a pretty bold move for KCP&L to take this step when it hasn’t been proven to date there is a big demand for electric vehicles in the area,” says John Gartner, analyst for Navigant Research, which specializes in new technologies and clean energy. To which Chuck Caisley, KCP&L vice president of marketing and public affairs responds, “If you build it, they will come.”

Nissan president Carlos Ghosn said in remarks he published last year: “Over the past century, we’ve spent trillions of dollars to develop a sophisticated global infrastructure around petroleum. Gasoline service stations are now so common in the industrialized world that people often forget conventional cars have a limited range. We are in the early stages of building the same type of infrastructure around EV charging. Whenever we see a concentrated initiative to boost EV infrastructure, we see EV sales grow.”

Many utility companies in America are scared to think how the advent of solar power may eat into profits, but KCP&L is being proactive by looking for new markets. Will its investment in EV infrastructure pay off? We will keep you updated on this story as it develops.