Vivianna and Peter Van Deerlin both own Teslas, recently taking a cross-country trip in one of them from their Moorestown home to San Francisco.
Finding a charge was easy because the electric vehicle’s onboard computer plotted all the charging stations on their route, including those at hotels.
“We have become a full electric car family and we don’t have any conventional gas cars,” said Vivianna, a pathology and laboratory medicine professor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
As president of the Delaware Valley Tesla Owners Club, she is pleased at the budding partnership between Tesla and Wawa to offer charging stations — though she still charges her car most nights at home.
Lori Bruce, a spokesperson for Wawa, said the company now has 16 stores with Tesla Superchargers with plans to double that by the end of 2020. Wawa’s newest store planned with Tesla Superchargers is being built on Route 73 in Maple Shade, next to Uno Pizzeria & Grill. Bruce said it’s projected to open by December.
The convenience store chain began opening charging stations in August 2017. The Tesla Supercharger connector is proprietary, so Wawa does not offer charging for other electric vehicles, except at one store outside the Philly region.
Bruce said the company decided to the install the fast-charging stations after requests by Tesla customers.
A typical Wawa charging site has eight Tesla Superchargers. The stations add about 150 miles of driving range per 15 minutes of charging. The company has rolled out its latest charger that will charge at a rate of 75 miles of range per 5 minutes of charging, though it’s not yet available on the East Coast.
The latest Teslas have a range of up to 370 miles — slightly farther than the distance from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh — when fully charged.
As of now, New Jersey is Wawa’s top market for the chargers. In the immediate Philadelphia area, however, Wawa’s charging offerings are few, with currently only a handful of locations in Delaware and South Jersey. None is in Philadelphia or its immediate western suburbs. And none is in Pennsylvania, though Bruce said that will change.
Currently, Wawa Tesla charging sites are located in:
New Jersey — Florence, Woodbridge, Paulsboro, Kearny, Parsippany, and Barnegat.
Delaware — Lewes, Claymont, and Dover.
Virginia — Chester and Fredericksburg.
Florida — Pinellas Park, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Riviera Beach (West Palm Beach).
Most electric vehicles can’t handle the amount of fast charging that a Tesla is capable of. Tesla said it makes up roughly 80% of the overall electric vehicle market that can take what’s known as a DC fast charge.
Currently, the Pennsylvania-based Wawa offers only one non-Tesla charging station that uses the Electrify America network. Electrify America offers a broader range of connections, including CCS, CHAdeMO, and J1772™ connectors. The Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicles, for example, use CHAdeMO connectors.
Tesla has started offering an adapter at its charging stations that also works with CHAdeMO connectors.
But it’s clear that the demand for Tesla chargers is increasing. The company reported record deliveries of 95,356 vehicles in the second quarter of 2019, surpassing its previous record of 91,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2018. It expects to produce 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles this year.
Overall, Tesla now has about 6,500 Superchargers in North America and plans to rapidly expand its electric vehicle charging offerings, though most owners charge their vehicles at home each night through 120- or 240-volt outlets. Most owners say it’s no problem to combine the network of Superchargers and other charging locations on long trips.
One big factor that could play into charger locations: how welcoming each state is to electric vehicles.
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said environmentalists in the Garden State welcome the growth of the charging stations, but would like to see more stations that work with all electric vehicles.
He’s supporting legislation in New Jersey that would establish statewide programs, procedures, and rules to bolster development of widespread public charging infrastructure that will work for all electric vehicles by 2025.
“I think it’s indicative electric vehicles are increasingly becoming more mainstream,” O’Malley said. “But it’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation. We need more electric vehicle charging stations.”
O’Malley said many people are reluctant to buy electric cars without the assurance they will be able to charge them in what’s known as “range anxiety” — even though electric vehicles are gaining more range each year on a single charge.
For example, O’Malley said, there are 500,000 people living in Camden County, possessing tens of thousands of vehicles. But there are only 18 public charging stations, including one of the newest at the county’s boathouse at Cooper River in Pennsauken.
In Pennsylvania, David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, notes that the commonwealth also has proposed legislation, known as the Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act, that would establish a framework to support a charging network.
Pennsylvania offers rebates of up to $1,500 for alternative-fuel vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Depending on whether either legislation gets approved, environmentalists and even some business groups supporting the effort say electric vehicle charging will take off.
The federal government offers a tax credit for $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the vehicle and its battery capacity.
Wawa is far from alone in offering charging, but it is a big chain moving into the space in a big way. Competitor Royal Farms, with far fewer stores in the region, also has some EV charging stations. PlugShare.com offers an interactive map to find chargers.
Meanwhile, Vivianna Van Deerlin, the Tesla owner, thinks Wawa’s planned charging station in Maple Shade is smart, not only because it’s near her home, but because it’s close to a network of major roads, including the N.J. Turnpike, I-295, and the Betsy Ross Bridge.
“Superchargers offer a great utility when you’re traveling away from home,” she said. “When you do stop, it takes about 10 or 15 minutes to charge. So it’s great to have a location that offers food, a bathroom, coffee, and even windshield cleaner fluid. Wawa is ideal.”