Spattering rain turned to a breezy, cloudy morning as nearly 100 attendees crowded into one corner of the parking lot of the Topeka Service Area on the Kansas Turnpike last Wednesday morning.  The occasion?  The grand opening of the first non-Tesla high-speed charging station on the Kansas Turnpike.
This was really three grand openings in one.  Along with high-speed charging stations in Topeka, the Kansas Turnpike Authority, in partnership with KCP&L, Westar Energy and the Kansas Department of Transportation, is rolling out electric infrastructure in three different locations simultaneously.  Beyond the Topeka station, service areas in Lawrence, KS and Towanda, KS now have the same
equipment, installed and ready for drivers to use.
Speakers at the event included CEO of Westar and KCP&L Terry Bassham, KTA Chairman Dave Lindstrom, Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz, and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.  With electric cars on the cusp of broad acceptance, Governor Kelly reminded her listeners how quickly transportation can change. In 1899, American manufacturers produced about 2,500 automobiles in total.  Fifteen years later, that output had risen by a factor of 200 to more than 500,000.   She views this new infrastructure as “a game changer,” the leading edge of a fundamental change in transportation which will include shared, intelligent, and autonomous vehicles.
The charging stations are part of Kansas City Power & Light’s Clean Charge Network, but for drivers from outside the Kansas City metro, they’re also tied into the ChargePoint network, America’s largest EV charging provider.  A simple swipe of a ChargePoint card starts the process, with charging fees billed automatically to the account holder’s credit card.  High-speed chargers can power cars with fast-charge technology up to 80% of their battery capacity, usually in less than 30 minutes.  These stations are equipped with SAE chargers (the standard connector for American EV makes like the Chevy Bolt), as well as ChaDeMo, which works with Japanese EV models, notably the popular Nissan LEAF.  Each station also has one Level 2 charger, which are most commonly found in mall, workplace, or apartment building parking lots.
Along with eliminating range anxiety (a not-uncommon worry of EV owners about the availability of chargers when they need them most) these stations also cut environmental anxiety.  Per Terry Bassham, the power needed to run these systems is renewable, coming from KCP&L’s extensive wind farms sited in central and western Kansas.
This exciting moment brings the number of high-speed charging sites in Kansas beyond the Kansas City metro to eight, all located along interstate highways or the Turnpike. It is a crucial step forward in making electric vehicles more accessible and feasible as a mass-market vehicle in Kansas.

The event comes at the heels of the recent assembly of the Electrify Heartland Coalition in Kansas City, a group geared toward making electric vehicles and transit more accessible in Kansas and Missouri. The coalition consists of local policymakers, engineers, utilities, EV tech companies, and other key actors and advocates for electrification. The group was formed by Metropolitan Energy Center’s Kansas City Clean Cities and Central Kansas Clean Cities programs, who have led efforts in advancing electrification in KS and MO since 2011. To learn more about how you can get involved in Electrify Heartland’s initiatives, please contact Beth Pauley at