Current Events: Electric Car Owners Find Juice at RV Parks
Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., is probably one of the greenest campgrounds in the country, having made substantial investments in solar panels for water heating and power generation.
But two years ago, a visitor from the University of Delaware opened park owner Mike Gurevich’s eyes to yet another way his park can support the environment:
“This guy knocked on the door and said, ‘Can I charge my car?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Using a campground’s 50-amp/240 volt electric hookups, most electric vehicle owners can charge their cars in about four hours.
So what do people do when they’re waiting at Cherry Hill Park for their vehicles to recharge?
“They just hang out,” Gurevich explained in a news release. “Some sit at our picnic tables and work on their computers, using our Wi-Fi system. Others eat lunch at our café.”
Only a handful of electric car owners have used Cherry Hill Park for refueling purposes so far, but Gurevich plans to market the concept in the coming weeks in an effort to build a new business base and to support the environment. He charges $10 for a four-hour charge.
While the concept of using campgrounds as refueling stops for electric vehicles is enticing for many park operators, if the concept takes off, campgrounds may need to eventually install dedicated pedestals for electric vehicles so as not to tie up too many campsites with electric vehicles, said Wade Elliott, president and CEO of Utility Supply Group, an RV and electric vehicle pedestal supplier based in Preston, Wash.
“I see the idea of recharging electric vehicles as an opportunity for campground and RV park operators,” Elliott said. “But if more and more of these vehicles come into their parks merely to be recharged, park operators may want to put in three or four dedicated circuits near their store or swimming pool and not use their campsites to do this.”
Aside from tying up campsites with electric vehicles, if more than two or three vehicles are recharging their batteries at the same time, it could affect the amount of power that’s available to other campers and pose potential electric load management issues. “With a dedicated electric vehicle circuit, you don’t have to worry about running afoul of the National Electric Code,” Elliott said.
In Maryland and California, campground operators are reporting a gradual uptick in inquiries from electric vehicle owners who are considering using campgrounds as refueling stops on long haul trips. Travelers who do this typically have adapters with them that enable them to plug into 50-amp /240 volt electric pedestals that campgrounds often provide with their RV sites.
“We’ve been getting quite a few calls from people wanting to charge their vehicles at our park,” said Russ Yates, owner of Holiday Park Campground in Greensboro, Md., adding that he’s installed a separate 50-amp/240 volt plug on the side of the campground office so that people can recharge their vehicles without having to park in a campsite. He charges $8.50 for a four-hour charge.
“Most people who come to our park to recharge their vehicles come up to our store and buy snacks. Or they get on their laptops and send e-mail. But most of them simply take a nap in their vehicle or they walk around our park and sit by the river,” Yates said.
Patrick Stone, owner of Mountain Gate RV Park in Redding, Calif., said he’s also had several people stop by his park to recharge their vehicles. “Normally,” he said, “they’re on their way north or south and they need a pretty good charge to get over the mountains.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, for its part, plans to create a listing of parks that offer electric vehicle refueling services on its GoCampingAmerica website.
“With over 3,300 members, we will over time gather all of this information and make it available online, but clearly the potential is there for the nation’s private campground owners to help support the greening of the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Denver, Colo.
“Campgrounds,” he added, “are an ideal place for electric vehicle owners to take a break from driving. Most have swimming pools, lakes and scenic venues and wireless Internet service, if you need to check email or do work while your vehicle is recharging. Many campgrounds also offer rental accommodations, so you can recharge your vehicle and spend the night and be ready to hit the road the next day.”
Cherry Hill Park, a Best Parks in America affiliate serving the Washington, D.C., market, has a hot tub and solar heated swimming pool as well as cabin and yurt rentals, while Mountain Gate Park in California offers park model rentals and a solar heated swimming pool. Holiday Park Campground, for its part, is a Good Sam Park with rental trailers, tennis courts, playgrounds, a large swimming pool as well as hiking and nature trails.