Electric vehicle drivers will be able to travel the entire 236-mile length of the Kansas Turnpike without ever having to exit to recharge their car's batteries, thanks to the addition of "fast-charging" stations at the Topeka, Lawrence and Towanda service areas.
The announcement came during a news conference Wednesday morning at the turnpike's Topeka Service Area, located just east of the capital city along Interstate 70.
Gov. Laura Kelly, who spoke at the news conference, called the charging stations "a game changer" for electric vehicle drivers.
The Topeka Service Area — like the ones in Lawrence and Towanda — has three charging stations. In Topeka, the charging stations are located just east of the gasoline pumps.
The addition of the charging stations came as a result of a partnership between the Kansas Turnpike Authority, Westar Energy and Kansas City Power and Light.
In addition to enabling electric vehicle drivers to avoid having to leave the turnpike to recharge their car's batteries, the charging stations at the three service areas will help to eliminate “range anxiety,” or the fear an electric car battery will run out of power before a destination is reached, turnpike officials said.
“Electric vehicle charging stations are something we’ve been asked about by customers,” said Kansas Turnpike Authority CEO Steve Hewitt in a news release. “We’re excited to make this request a reality for our electric vehicle customers.”
Each of the three locations will include two DC fast-charging stations and one Level 2 station, turnpike officials said. Typically, a DC Fast charging station can fully charge most electric vehicles in under 30 minutes.
Those needing to recharge their vehicle's battery can pull up to a charging station, hook up the charging cable, then go inside the service area while their vehicle is being charged, officials said.
The turnpike's charging stations are located mile marker 65 at Towanda, mile marker 188 at Topeka and mile marker 209 at Lawrence.
With an increasing number of electric vehicles on the road, Hewitt said, the addition of the charging stations "allows us to be ahead of the game."
Some electric vehicles can travel up to 200 to 250 miles on a single charge, though many average somewhere between 110 and 130 miles per charge, said Chuck Caisley, chief customer officer for Westar Energy.
The number of electric vehicles on the road is expected to grow, Caisley said.
Manufacturers are projected to spend some $500 billion over the next seven to eight years on electric vehicle development, Caisley said.
Electric vehicles, he added, signify "the next big step in transportation evolution."
Caisley added that all the energy for the electric charging stations comes from renewable sources, including wind energy generated in western Kansas.
The charging stations are manufactured by ChargePoint. Turnpike officials said the stations also allow drivers to tap into ChargePoint’s nationwide network of charging stations.
The electric vehicle charging stations are open and ready to be used by travelers using electric vehicles at the three service areas.