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Utah leading on the road to an 'Electric Highway'

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 20:10:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY — With gas prices at an all-time high, more and more people are turning to electric cars. But the issue of charging, and the lack of charging stations, is what gives drivers anxiety.

But with Utah leading the way on what's being dubbed as an electric highway across the intermountain west, those hopes and fears could be addressed.

"In an internal combustion gasoline-powered car, you know that the next gas station is not going to be too far away. With electric vehicle charging stations, they're not as widespread and available," said Flint Timmins with the Utah Office of Tourism.

The lack of stations have made long road trips in electric vehicles merely a dream for those who own the cars.

"It's, unfortunately, a really, it's a real worry for folks because there's a good chance that maybe you won't be able to make it to that next charging station," said Timmins.

The charging anxiety is a real thing here in Utah, but the new ChargeWest Electric Highway program launched Tuesday in Salt Lake City aims to change that. 

"It matters to Salt Lake City because we've been investing in electric vehicle infrastructure," said Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

The mayor is one of the many who have thrown their support behind the project.

"It's exciting for me, mostly because I came into politics to advance our air quality and make sure that our future is more clean than when I started," Mendenhall explained.

The goal is to install infrastructure all across western states, creating the largest corridor of charging stations in the nation between Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada New Mexico and Wyoming.

"When you travel from Salt Lake City to Moab or Boulder or Zion, that you know when you get there, you'll be able to charge that vehicle keep playing and then make it home," said Mendenhall.

The ability for everyone to venture across the area is important to tourism.

"Tourism is really about marketing our destination and our state to potential visitors," said Timmins. "Visitors are looking more for responsible travel, and I think this is a really great representation of that desire to be a responsible traveler."

The Utah Office of Tourism believes the electric highway will create even more opportunities to travel.

"Where we can say, not only do we have these majestic landscapes and this cultural heritage and unique opportunities available here, but you can also do it in an electric vehicle," added Timmins.

The goal won't be to place charging stations in big cities or destinations like national parks, but in smaller communities and smaller destinations throughout the state.

"Tourists who come into Utah, whether they're coming in from Vegas or flying in through the Salt Lake City airport, can get an electric vehicle with that option and still contribute to our economy, but not make the environmental impact that they have to today," Mendenhall said.