Is Western North Carolina ready for coming EV surge?

PLUGGING AWAY: Buncombe County has 2,576 registered fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the fourth most in the state. Photo courtesy of the Blue Ridge EV Club

As soon as Nic Goodman bought a used Chevy Bolt in 2020, he knew his days driving gasoline-powered cars were over.

“I just fell in love with it,” he says of the all-electric hatchback. “It’s just so much fun. It feels like you’re driving something from the future.”

But there was one drawback. At the time, Goodman was living in an apartment off Charlotte Street, which meant he didn’t have an easy way to plug in his car when parked at home.

“I had to be pretty strategic about charging,” he says with a laugh. “I had come up with so many harebrained schemes of running extension cables into the parking lot.”

Eventually, Goodman bought a $60 annual membership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and was able to charge his car at the nonprofit’s Orchard Street offices, less than half a mile from his apartment.

These days, he and his wife live in a house in Candler. “It’s a lot more convenient and it’s definitely cheaper to be able to charge from home,” he says.

Goodman’s experience demonstrates a reality for environmentally conscious Buncombe County residents looking to reduce their carbon footprints. Enthusiasm for electric vehicles is high — and growing rapidly — but many think the number of publicly available charging stations is lagging.

“There’s a lot of EVs on our roads in Buncombe County, and it’s spreading to other counties, but I think the governments have not done a whole bunch to put enough chargers in place,” says Rudy Beharrysingh, president of the Blue Ridge EV Club.

That will be an issue over the coming years as more people drive EVs. Research group BloombergNEF projects that more than half of passenger cars sold in the United State will be electric by 2030.

“This is the future of transportation,” says Dave Erb, a retired UNC Asheville engineering professor who is active in the local EV community. “As you get more market penetration, you’re going to see more people who can’t charge at home, can’t charge at work, and they’ll need to go somewhere to fast charge the same way they take their gas vehicle somewhere to refuel.”

Local governments will play a role in making public charging more widely available, but so will the state of North Carolina and the federal government, which already have big plans underway for creating so-called “alternative fuel corridors,” particularly along interstate highways. And private businesses that see free charging stations as a way of attracting customers also will play a part, experts say.

Plugged in 

As of December, Buncombe County had 2,576 registered fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. That’s 1.2% of all registered vehicles, which may not seem like much until you consider the national average is less than 0.5%, Erb says.

Buncombe has more registered EVs than all but three counties in the state. And in the four-county region served by the Land of the Sky Regional Council, electric vehicle registrations rose 416% from 2018-22, says Sara Nichols, who heads the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition. 

According to the popular PlugShare app, there are more than 100 public charging stations in Buncombe and surrounding counties. Most are Level 2, meaning an EV can add 12-32 miles of driving range for each hour of charging. A handful of the stations are Level 3, also known as DC fast-charging, which can add around 100-250 miles of range in 30-45 minutes. A handful offer charging services for Teslas only.

Many of the stations are offered by private businesses, including Ingles and other grocery stores, breweries, car dealerships and hotels. The Sam’s Club on Patton Avenue provides fast chargers through the Electrify America network, while the Asheville Outlets mall has fast chargers that are part of the EVgo network. A-B Tech provides fast charging, while UNC Asheville has some Level 2 stations on its campus. 

Costs vary for public parking stations. Some are free for all, while others are free only to customers or those who pay to park. Some charge a flat fee while others charge per hour (typically something like $1.50) or by kilowatt (usually less than 50 cents). It’s best to check an app for prices and hours.

The city of Asheville offers Level 2 charging at its paid parking garages on Rankin Avenue and Wall Street, while Buncombe County does so at paid public garages on Coxe Avenue and College Street. The county also has charging stations at the Land of Sky Regional Council’s offices on Leicester Highway, with three new installations set to open there over the next few months, says Buncombe County sustainability officer Jeremiah LeRoy.

And the East Asheville Public Library, which opened in May 2021, features two free charging ports, LeRoy says. “I think that’s probably going to be standard practice for us moving forward as we do new construction or major renovations.”

Maxed out?

The city of Asheville, however, has no plans to add charging stations, focusing instead on transitioning its fleet to electric and other energy-efficient vehicles, says Jacob Klodt, the city’s fleet manager (see sidebar). 

Andi Graham, who moved to Asheville from St. Petersburg, Fla., two years ago, recently bought a Volvo XC40 Recharge and was disappointed to find a lack of public charging options downtown.

“I did not even consider when I bought this car that finding a public charger, if I did need one, would be an issue,” she says. “I can park in a downtown garage and charge my car for free, but it costs me $20 to park. So, what’s the value there? I guess I erroneously thought that, like many other large and progressive cities, putting an electric charging network would have been a priority by now, but I was very wrong on that.”

LeRoy understands such frustrations but thinks downtown Asheville may be close to maxing out in terms of public charging stations. “All the parking garages have EV charging, so how many more of those are going to be popping up?”

That’s one reason that making charging available at apartments will be vital to the continued growth of the EV market locally, says Nichols of the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalition.

“We think that the future of the electric vehicle is going to be affordable and accessible, and we don’t want our apartment dwellers to be left out of that ecosystem,” she explains. “So, the more of those apartment companies that we can get on board to install this, the better. And we’re willing to work with folks to close gaps that they might have to get it done.”

The clean-vehicles group can offer guidance on seeking grants and rebates to offset costs as well as technical advice on installing chargers.

“It could just be that they need to understand more about what they’re getting into,” she says. “What does having a site mean for them in terms of maintenance? Is it a fire concern? Where is their access to power that we could tap into? We’re a good resource to brainstorm the best way to do it on your site.”

The city and county do not require new or existing apartment buildings to add charging stations because such requirements are not mandated by state law.

“It is suspected [by city staff] any development, whether commercial or residential, of a certain size would want to incorporate EV chargers in their project, even more so going forward,” says city spokesperson Kim Miller.

LeRoy says the county may consider incentivizing developers to install chargers as part of its broader Comprehensive Plan development discussions.

Alternative fuel corridors

The number of charging stations available regionally and beyond is going to skyrocket over the next few years due to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021. The law provides nearly $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of EV charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors, particularly along interstate highways. 

“They’re investing a lot of money into very robust, big, high-capacity charging stations so that an EV driver could feel comfortable taking a long trip,” Nichols says. “The fast chargers are the ones that act more like gasoline, but they still will take some time [to charge a vehicle].”

The state of North Carolina has a five-year, $109 million plan to place charging stations every 50 miles along major highways in the state, including interstates 26 and 40. A second phase of the plan will focus on community-based charging in urban and rural areas.

“I think we’re at a tipping point because there is so much federal money coming down the pipeline,” LeRoy says. “The intent is to make public charging readily available so that this transition to EVs for a lot of folks becomes a lot easier.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Is Western North Carolina ready for coming EV surge?

  1. Dave Erb

    There are a lot more public chargers out there than one of the interviewees seems to realize. They’re easy to find on To reduce the clutter on the map, a Volvo driver will probably want to filter out all but the J-1772 and CCS/SAE plugs.

    And please join the Blue Ridge EV Club for Drive Electric Earth Day in Hendersonville on Saturday, 22 April and Asheville on Sunday, 30 April. Details (and signup, if you’re willing to display your car) at

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.