Up the street from me, the Shell station is getting a bit of a facelift. The pumps out front are being joined by a new series gadgets that look a lot like gas pumps, but the nozzles are not for liquid. They're for electricity. My neighborhood is getting a charging station.
Initially, my bleeding heart liberal sensibilities were jolted into life. This is such a brand new day for my urban Oakland neighborhood. Travelers from across the city could drop by our neck of the woods whenever they needed to top off their Tesla. Or Volt. Or Kona. Or Mustang Mach E. All of which have a retail price of over forty thousand dollars. Which means that all that potentially disposable income will be finding its way into our little corner of the world. Redistributing the wealth.
And that is the moment where my thought process turned. I started to wonder if these charging stations weren't the advance soldiers for more gentrification. While it is certain that driving electric vehicles will have all sorts of benefits for our community, it makes me wonder how many of my neighbors will be able to take advantage of these resources. Most of the cars on my street are gasoline powered, relics of a less enlightened age. The Prius in my own driveway is part of that evolutionary chain, There has been a lot of wild talk in my household about moving into the future and purchasing an electric car. We have solar panels on our roof, which we are currently paying off as part of our not inconsiderable mortgage. The discussions include what a wonderful world we would be living in if we were able to hop off the grid completely, including trips to the local charging station to top off the car's battery. In which case the Shell station up the street would be a non-issue.
The reality is that electricity costs money when you buy it from somebody else. How much will you spend per kilowatt hour? Turns out that it can fluctuate. Just like the price of gasoline. So if a certain station decides that they're not making enough on the electrical end of the operation, they can just go out to the curb and swap out a few of those plastic numbers on the sign. Of course nothing's stopping these charging stations from erecting great solar arrays to bring that power down to earth for "free."
But don't count on it.
On second thought, I think I'll go back to thinking happy thoughts about people driving electric cars. Because they can afford to.