Bill Thunberg

Bill Thunberg

None of us would expect a gas station to let us fill up our car for free. Stations buy fuel in bulk from a provider and sell it to customers for a profit. That’s the business model of, really, any company. It just makes sense that the same business model should apply to selling “fuel” in the form of electricity to customers needing to “fill up” their electric vehicles.

But you might be surprised to learn that North Carolina laws don’t currently allow for that. Thanks to common sense thinking in the House, hopefully we’ll remedy that soon. With the leadership of its four sponsors, Representatives John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Dean Arp (R-Union), Harry Warren (R-Rowan), and Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck) and 27 co-sponsors, support for the bill is strong.

The bill Rep. Szoka introduced last week will provide a legal means by which businesses can sell power to electric vehicle owners from charging stations on their property. The new law that was overwhelmingly passed in the House is no subsidy. It merely makes it worthwhile for retailers to install electric vehicle charging stations so that those who need the power have a way to buy it. North Carolina law already paves the way for this provision since RV parks and marinas are permitted to sell power to customers. This merely levels the playing field.

Support for the bill isn’t limited to the NC General Assembly. As a business owner in Mooresville, I’m pleased to know that the NC Chamber of Commerce supports this legislation. The Chamber has aptly noted another common sense aspect of the bill that provides more predictability of how much customers will pay and how much station owners will earn. The time it takes electric vehicles to charge varies by make and model, so it’s important and fairer for everyone when power is charged by the minute.

As a supporter of clean energy in North Carolina, I’m hopeful this bill will jump start the installation of more charging stations, but this legislative update is foremost about implementing fair business practices. The bill is easy to support. Let station owners do what RV parks and marinas are already doing: sell power to its customers. That’s all it’s about.

If you think about it, it really all comes down to a person’s right to drive their vehicle of choice. As it is, there are drivers who want to drive electric vehicles but have to worry about whether charging stations will be available everywhere they need to go. Since gas stations don’t currently have the ability to sell electricity to drivers, it hasn’t made economic sense for them to install charging stations. This lack of charging availability is impeding the market.

Fortunately, the fix is simple. We can enable drivers to exercise the right to enjoy their vehicle of choice. We can make the purchase of electricity as accessible as the purchase of fuel, and let the market do the rest.

This is not a new concept. Nearly half the country is already working under this model. We’re behind the eight ball right now, but passing this bill will allow North Carolina to quickly catch up. It just makes good sense. Utilities get to keep selling electricity. Drivers get to choose the vehicle they want. Stations get to earn a profit on all types of “fuel” they sell. Everybody wins.

I’m grateful that Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) has already expressed her support for the bill, and I’m hopeful that the NC Senate will pass the bill quickly, send it on to the governor, and let this commonsense practice become law.

Bill Thunberg is the former Mayor of Mooresville and owner of Alexander Zachary Jewelers. Of note, Mr. Thunberg serves as Executive Director of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission and is Vice-Chair of the Centralina Economic Development Commission.

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