Electric Vehicles Are Coming. Is Your RV Park Prepared?

ben quiggle Jul 02, 2021
Electric car

Gas prices are creeping up again.

That is to be expected to some degree right before a big summer holiday like the Fourth of July, but it still hurts the wallet.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — I didn’t even know that agency existed until I started researching for this column — the average price of gas (per gallon) is $1 over what it was last year at this time.

In fact, Fourth of July gas prices will be at the highest level we have seen since 2014.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t seem as though the higher gas prices will stymie travel — which is good for the outdoor hospitality industry. With businesses looking for workers and wages moving up, more people are making more money. According to FOX Business, many lower-income workers actually came out of the pandemic in better financial shape.

U.S. consumer confidence is also at a 16-month high and some experts are saying inflation is hitting its peak, all good things for the economy.

Rising gas prices, however, have continued to highlight the innovations in electric vehicles (EV) as major car companies have announced a transition away from gas-powered vehicles and significant investments in EVs.

Some RV park, campground and glamping park owners may already have seen EVs towing RVs or maybe have had EV owners asking to charge at their parks. Tesla is driving the EV market at the moment but General Motors, Ford, Nissan and others either have EV offerings or are developing them.

A London company, London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), plans deliveries of its e-Camper, with an indicative list price of $86,775, in Q4 of 2021. Based on VN5, LEVC’s new electric van, the e-Camper has the same pure EV range of over 60 miles (98 km) with a total flexible range of 304 miles (489 km)

The outdoor hospitality industry doesn’t want to get caught flatfooted over the next few decades and that is why it is imperative that park owners assess the infrastructure and policies they have in place.

Wade Elliott, general manager of Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, thinks that the limited range of EVs is currently impacting the ability for people to use them for cross-country treks but he also acknowledges that park owners could lose money if they aren’t metering their electric usage at the campsite level.

“That’s going to be a problem for RV parks,” he said. “They’re going to come in with an electric vehicle as a tow behind and they will plug it into the pedestal at the campsite and charge it overnight. Unless you are metering that site, you will have a big increase in the use of electricity.”

Elliott said it typically costs about $100 to meter the electricity at a campsite. Park operators will need to monitor their guest's electrical consumption to determine the extent to which they should meter their campsites.

Mike Gurevich, who co-owns and operates the 400-site Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., said he sees RVers towing electric vehicles and charging them at his campsites. But he said there are just a few RVers doing this and the costs of charging vehicles is not yet making a significant impact on his overall electricity costs.

“Our overnight rates are based on two or three air-conditioners per unit running in July,” he said, adding, “I am thinking that cars won’t be dramatically worse than that, at least for now.”

Gene Zanger, who co-owns and operates Casa de Fruta RV Park in Hollister, Calif., said he simply charges guests $5 to charge their electric vehicles on one of his 50-ampRV sites. Casa de Fruta is a diversified business that includes a fruit store, a restaurant and a 300-site RV park.

Having a Tesla charging station next door has been good for his business, Zanger said, adding that the vehicles tell the driver at the beginning of their trip where they can stop and how long they will need to charge so they can plan their day.

A more immediate question for private park operators now, Zanger said, is trying to figure out the economics of installing electric vehicle charging stations and whether it makes sense financially to do it.

“You’ll see hotels that have charging facilities. It’s an amenity, but we’re trying to figure out if we can put in our own charging facility with a 100-amp electrical outlet with the proper receptacles for RV charging,” he explained. “Some companies will come in and put in the stations and pay a portion of it to put it in, but nothing more.”

Zanger said he would like to have EV chargers in front of his restaurant but have the EV charging company pay some kind of rent for using the space. So far, he hasn’t been able to find any company willing to pay for this kind of arrangement.

Sometimes the outdoor hospitality industry can be slow to adapt to changes. It took almost two decades for park owners to accept the fact that taking reservations online may be a good way to do business.

The COVID crisis really highlighted the need for the entire industry to provide better access to the internet, especially as more people began to work from the road. Some park owners are now playing catchup.

Hopefully, the industry recognizes the importance of understanding how EVs could impact business before it becomes a larger trend.

You have been warned.