If electric cars are the future of transportation, will theme parks need to change to accommodate them?
Because electric cars take on a charge much slower than a car with an internal combustion engine can take on a tank of gasoline, car manufacturers have promoted a "charge while you park" model. For most drivers, this means plugging in your car in your garage at home overnight. But when you drive beyond far beyond home, you need a place to recharge at your destination, too.
So what charging facilities do America's top theme parks offer their guests who arrive in electric vehicles? Eight of the nation's top 10 parks currently offer electric vehicle [EV] charging in their parking lots.
Walt Disney World
The Magic Kingdom has five ChargePoint stations in its Zurg parking lot, while Epcot has four spaces in Journey. At Animal Kingdom, EV drives can charge in one of four spaces in the medical parking lot. Disney's Hollywood Studios currently does not offer any EV charging stations, but a Disney spokesperson said that EV charging may be offered in the future as Disney completes the "reimagining" of the DHS parking areas.
You also can find six charging stations at Disney Springs, with three each on the fifth floors of the Orange and Lime parking garages. For all of these stations, charging rates apply in addition to normal parking fees.
Electric vehicle charging is available through Universal's valet parking service, which serves both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Universal has two Tesla 80 amp chargers along with two Clipper Creek 48 amp chargers. Each hotel also has EV charging stations in their garages for on-site guests, as well. There is no additional cost for vehicle charging.
The Mickey and Friends parking structure that serves Disneyland and Disney California Adventure has several ChargePoint stations available for resort guests, although the number of available stations has been fluctuating with the construction of the new parking structure next door. Charging rates apply in addition to normal parking fees.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Electric vehicle drivers can find four charging stations (on levels 2 and 7) in the Frankenstein garage, eight stations (on levels 1 and B1) in the Jurassic Parking garage, and 16 stations on level B1 in the ET garage. There's also one in the Woody Woodpecker lot near Front Gate Parking. Charging rates apply in addition to normal parking fees.
Completing the top 10, Knott's Berry Farm does not offer electric vehicle charging in its parking lots. If you know of EV charging stations at other theme parks around the country, please share those locations in the comments.
As a Tesla driver, I have to concede that I don't bother charging while visiting the parks. Instead, I hit up a nearby Tesla Supercharger on my way home from the parks. Why? Timing.
The trouble with "charge while you park" at a theme park is that you're typically parked for a lot longer than you need to charge your EV. ChargePoint's stations can deliver about 25 miles of range every hour, but even at that relatively slow charging speed, most of my theme park visits last longer than the time it would take to bring my car up to its 80 percent recommended charge level, which is 210 miles on our Model 3.
(Background: You don't want to risk draining the entire battery on an EV, so I haven't driven mine below 30 miles of range. That means I typically am adding around 150 miles of range in a charging session, which would be about six hours at ChargePoint's speed. For comparison, I can do that at a Tesla Supercharger in 30-45 minutes.)
Since charging stations tend to be in high demand, it's simple courtesy (or a requirement!) to move your car from the charging space as soon as it is "full." But the last thing I want to do in the middle of a theme park trip is go back to the parking lot and move my car, which also would mean coming back through security to get into the park again. That's why I like Universal Orlando's system, which incorporates charging with valet parking. Valets can move vehicles as soon as they've charged, without bothering their owners to do it, allowing the charging stations to be put to maximum use with no inconvenience to drivers.
For me, though, it's just easier when I visit Disneyland to hit one of the two Superchargers in Downey or the one in Santa Ana, depending in which direction I am headed. Tesla's in-car navigation system will direct you to the nearest Supercharger if you ask. It also will route you via Supercharging stations if your destination is farther than your current battery range. As a backup, I also have the ChargePoint and PlugShare apps on my phone to help me find other charging stations while away from home.
When I need to charge the car, I want do that in a situation where I can get back to my car and move it easily, rather than leave it while I am watching a movie or a show... or visiting a theme park, when rushing back to the car to clear the space for another EV driver would be inconvenient.
Ultimately, as technology improves to allow battery ranges to increase while charging times decrease, the "charge while you park" model will go away, and electric vehicles will charge much more like traditional cars fueling up at a gas pump. That will make charging stations at theme parks as necessary as gas stations at theme parks — it's nice to have one close by, but you don't need it in the middle of the parking lot.
But until that technology improves, having the option to charge an electric vehicle can help make a trip to the park that much more comfortable for EV drivers. Any other EV owners here? I'd love to hear about your experience.Tweet
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