The rental car lot at the Springfield-Branson National Airport will be equipped with four direct current fast chargers for electric vehicles. (Photo by Rance Burger)

So when will you, the proud owner of an electric car, be able to park in long-term parking at the airport, plug in the car, enjoy a five-day trip to Florida and fly back home to a fully-charged battery? Maybe in 2025.

Electric vehicle charging stations are coming to the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Rental car operators will get the first batch in the public terminal, with passenger parking lot stations coming later.

For now, rental car companies are mostly responsible for the demand, as they are stocking more and more electric vehicles in their fleets, said Dave Schaumburg, the airport’s assistant director of aviation.

“The local market does not necessarily have that, because we don’t have the infrastructure, but (rental car companies) are purchasing more and more of them,” Schaumburg said.

Springfield Director of Aviation Brian Weiler said the airport aims to put charging stations in its passenger parking lots, but is seeking out some financial assistance before the purchases go into the airport’s budget.

“We still want to aggressively pursue (putting electric vehicle chargers) in our paid parking lots,” Weiler said. “As you know, you’re seeing Teslas and other electric vehicles all around town. However, there are grant opportunities for that, and we are exploring those, and I actually feel like we are in a pretty good position.”

Industry demand matches consumer demand

Hertz is one of the three major rental car operators at the Springfield-Branson National Airport. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Rental car company executives say the demand to power electric vehicles matches a consumer demand to buy and try the cars.

In 2021, Hertz announced a $4.2 billion deal with Tesla to purchase 100,000 vehicles. This set off reactions across the industry. Enterprise executives have not gone into specific figures, but CEO Chrissy Taylor discussed electric vehicles during the company’s 2022 fiscal year earnings report, issued in October.

“Our approach is focused on ensuring we deliver a great experience and investing purposefully to support the long-term viability of new technologies,” Taylor said.

Avis executives also discussed EVs with their shareholders at least four times per year, most recently in a third-quarter earnings report in 2022. While Avis rents cars from the Springfield airport, it also has a lot on West Sunshine Street.

“While we won’t get into specific figures, new electric vehicles will make up a growing portion of our 2023 fleet buys,” Avis CEO Joseph Ferraro said on Nov. 1. “When I talked about this last year, I said it was very important to make sure we follow consumer demand, maintain targeted utilization and ensure the stability of the economics throughout the life cycle of a vehicle from purchase to vehicle use and maintenance to end-of-life residual values.”

Eight companies have rental car counters at the Springfield-Branson National Airport.

What’s next at the airport?

The Springfield-Branson National Airport has a contract with Olsson Engineers, which subcontracted with the firm of Crawford, Murphy and Tilley to study electric vehicle infrastructure and make recommendations to the Springfield Airport Board.

The consulting engineers held several meetings with the rental car operators at the airport, and landed on a plan to install four direct current fast chargers (DCFCs), which can charge an electric car in about 20 minutes

“What makes the most sense for each one of those brand families — we thought that we were going to be more restricted because those (DCFCs) are significantly higher in costs,” Schaumburg said.

However, the estimated costs of moving a power transformer and running the necessary electrical lines in the rental car lots came in lower than expected, leading the engineers and the airport staff to recommend the Springfield Airport Board prepare to put four fast chargers in the rental lot.

Each of Springfield-Branson National’s three rental car operators with electric vehicles will have a designated charging station, and the airport will have a fourth station that can be used as a backup or in times when there is a rush to charge several electric vehicles at the same time.

The board voted for a $58,470 budget amendment to pay Crawford, Murphy and Tilley to do the design and bidding work for the electric vehicle chargers, and to help with the construction phase of the installation project.

Brian Marshall, a consulting engineer with Olsson, is recognized as an expert in the infrastructure required to operate electric vehicles on a large scale. The airport will pay for power from City Utilities, and will bill rental car companies according to how much electricity their cars consume.

“The idea is to be able to track charges to individual rental fleets, so there’ll be one meter with City Utilities,” Marshall said. “The airport would pay that meter, but each device or each charging station has the ability to link specifically to each operator, you know, how often they use it, what amount of electricity they use, and that can be used to sub-bill however the airport decides.”

In years to come, slower chargers will likely be installed in passenger parking lots, where drivers park for longer spans of time. It’s also possible that the airport could put in a valet service unique for electric vehicles, where EVs would be charged while an owner is gone on a trip, but the vehicle is moved out of a parking space next to a charging station. 

It may be more economical for the airport to install a higher volume of slower chargers, to make up for the potential loss of sales when an electric car sits parked at a charging station for several days. 

Marshall said charging stations range in costs from $500 to $100,000 per unit depending on how much power they deliver, how quickly they work, and what sort of features they have.

Springfield Assistant Director of Aviation Dave Schaumburg (standing, center) discusses electric vehicle charging stations with the Springfield Airport Board Jan. 19, 2023. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger