Arkansas: An EV Charging Desert (for now)
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Arkansas is well-known as the Natural State. But for electric vehicle owners, the state is a proverbial charging desert.
Little Rock itself is a bit of an EV oasis. Tesla's only Supercharger stations are just southwest of Little Rock***, and otherwise it's a smattering of Level 2 EV charge stations in the city, and then a nearly void desert across the state. Charging overnight at a hotel, like the Wingate in Little Rock, provides a full canteen of juice for local travel and cannon-ball runs to far flung charge stations. From the Little Rock Supercharger, you cannot make it to any other Supercharger, except Texarkana, in a lower-range Tesla. Local EV owners have invested in long-range Tesla vehicles and CHAdeMO charge station adapters to help travel around and out of the state.
I live in Forth Worth and drive a Tesla Model 3, Standard Range Plus (SR+). The advertised range is about 240 miles, but I consider the useful range to be about 160-180 miles depending on speed, weather, traffic, and mountains. The route from Fort Worth to Little Rock is well-tested and uses two or three Tesla Supercharger stops. Without the Superchargers, frequent trips to Little Rock would be difficult. And travelling to anywhere except Texarkana requires some serious planning, and faith.
I recently made the a trip from Little Rock to Southwest Missouri. This trip is impossible solely on Superchargers. To make the trip, I left Little Rock and spent the night at the Super 8 hotel in Russellville (75 miles from Little Rock). That hotel, a Wyndham chain just like the Wingate, had some Level 2 EV charge stations on-site, allowing me to fully charge overnight. Cold weather, highway speeds, and the Ozark mountains necessitated another charging stop. The northwest Arkansas I-49 corridor contains roughly two dozen Level 2 charge stations (and likely more that aren't reported publicly), and many are free. I parked in downtown Fayetteville for lunch, and one of the two charge stations was available (the other was being used by another EV). I charged for two hours.
***There was a rumor that Tesla was opening a new Supercharger station in Lowell a few miles north of Fayetteville. Upon arriving at the Lowell Supercharger, an onsite technician let me know I was about four days early. A local grocery store across the street has a Chargepoint Level 2 charge station, but it was not working. After a quick chat with the store manager, and a flip of a breaker box switch, the charge station was up and running again. I charged for another hour and headed north to the Joplin, Missouri Superchargers.
Since the trip, I've heard that the Lowell Superchargers are up and running. Lowell is about 210 miles from the Little Rock Supercharger, which means it is still not an option for lower-range Telsas. I-40 west of Little Rock has very few charge options, and it takes a bit of faith to trust that the stations are functional and available.
Tesla has a program where the company provides Level 2 charge stations - for free. Site owners just need to pay for installation and electricity costs. The chargers are ideal for libraries, downtown squares, local city government facilities, hotels, restaurants, and other retail locations. Tesla frequently provides non-Tesla Level 2 charge stations (J1772) alongside Tesla chargers, so more EV's can plug in. Folks need to contact local city governments to apply, and tell anyone that has a local business that this program exists. More information is available here: https://www.tesla.com/charging-partners