A curious string of EV charging stations

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(Update:  a month after construction, the charging station has been turned on.)

From time to time, one encounters a thing where the lingering question is “what is the problem for this thing is the solution?”  Recently I encountered such a thing, namely an odd little four-kiosk EV charging station, not yet in service, tucked away in a corner of a parking lot of a Target store in Silverthorne, Colorado.  As it turns out, this charging station is part of fourteen others (see map at right) that rather inexplicably make up a trail from Broomfield, Colorado to Seattle, Washington.  The charging stations are, in some baffling way, connected with the car maker Volvo and with the coffee retailer Starbucks. 

Each of the kiosks has two charging plugs — a CHAdeMO plug (Wikipedia article) and a CCS1 plug (Wikipedia article).  Each kiosk, once activated, is said to charge at a maximum power of 200 kilowatts.  The decision to include CHAdeMO plugs is puzzling given that right now in 2023 almost no US cars (only Nissan Leafs) have CHAdeMO charging ports, and within a year or so, no newly manufactured US cars will have such charging ports.

The charging stations are managed by Chargepoint, meaning that anybody could make use of them with any make of EV, if one only goes to the trouble to sign up for a Chargepoint user account.

The branding of this set of fifteen charging stations is … wait for it, Starbucks and Volvo.  The idea, I guess, is that in a sort of twenty-first-century homage to the Oregon Trail (Wikipedia article), the owner of a Volvo EV might embark on a journey that starts at a Starbucks store in Broomfield, Colorado, charging his or her Volvo EV, and then travel along this trail toward a Starbucks Support Center in Seattle, Washington.  The idea, I guess, is that the traveler would stop in at each of the fourteen Starbucks stores along the way, while charging up the Volvo EV at each of the charging stations.

But you can’t make this stuff up.  About six months after Volvo issued its press releases trumpeting its support of this trail of fifteen EV charging stations, Volvo announced (blog article) that starting next in the 2024 model year, all of its newly manufactured Volvo cars will have Tesla-style charging ports.  Not CHAdeMO charging ports, and not charging CCS1 ports.

The particular site location that actually got selected in Silverthorne is, I suspect, rather embarrassing for the companies involved.  There is a prominent, easy-to-find company-owned Starbucks store within walking distance of the Silverthorne interchange with I-70, and it would be the ideal place to put the Starbucks-branded EV charging station for this part of the fifteen-stop trail.  The challenge is that this company-owned Starbucks store that is adjacent to I-70 in Silverthorne already has a 12-kiosk Tesla supercharging station that completely fills the parking lot.  The Tesla company snapped up that prime spot for a charging station more than a decade ago.

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In Silverthorne, the distant second-place spot for an EV charging station that is at least nominally connected with Starbucks turns out to be a franchised Starbucks counter inside a Target store that is three miles north of this I-70 interchange.  And indeed that is the place where a one-megawatt electrical transformer recently got installed by the local electric company, and the four kiosks that you see in this photograph got installed.

The newly manufactured Volvo car that you might purchase a year from now will have a Tesla-style charging port.  You won’t be able to charge it at this Volvo-branded charging station at the Target store that is three miles away from I-70.  But you will be able to charge it at the Tesla-branded charging station that is walking distance from I-70.

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