Biggest RV Park Conventions Ignore The Elephant In The Room

Owners of private campgrounds from across the country traveled to Orlando, Florida for fifteen of the biggest annual conventions of the year, hosted by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds ( ARVC) last week and Kampgrounds of America (KOA) this week. But while the most important topic on the ARVC agenda was electric vehicles (EVs) and how they “are poised to become a major factor in the future of outdoor hospitality” , the elephant outside the room was staunchly ignored, even though he was literally pounding away. the door to be recognized.

Coming into its meeting, the ARVC had just received an object lesson from Hurricane Ian on how a rapidly changing climate is upending the industry’s traditional business practices. Several dozen Florida campgrounds had been closed by Ian’s rampage, some permanently. Would even an organization as stubborn as the ARVC notice a growing existential threat to its members, not just in Florida, but across an entire country plagued by extreme drought, flooding, and wildfires? How to deal with skyrocketing costs and unavailability of property insurance, best practices in areas prone to fire or flooding, how to determine when it no longer makes sense to rebuild – all that and a whole host of other urgent matters could and should have been in the program of the ARVC.

But no. They do not have. Instead, as Tropical Storm (and briefly Hurricane) Nicole pounded the Atlantic coast, canceled all flights out of Orlando, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands, and killed at least two. , ARVC convention attendees were treated to the usual amenities promotion smorgasbord. and revenue-enhancing topics: best practices for generating additional revenue, the importance of ADA-compliant websites, “Scooters and Bikes and Golf Carts – Oh My!” Trade association agendas, after all, are driven by vested interests that have something to sell.

Electric vehicle charging is a hot topic at the RV convention

Indeed, the big topic of the day was the impending wave of electric vehicles – ironically, a wave propelled by climate change – as congress-goers were urged to start installing EV charging stations, even if not only gradually. Although evidence of market demand is still thin, the ARVC has made the most of what it has, saying that 57% of respondents to a survey it conducted last summer said the Availability of an EV charging station would be important to them when choosing a campground.

Well, sort of. The survey received limited attention on the convention floor, perhaps because of 32,271 potential respondents, only 581 chose to answer and only 457 were chosen for most data points. Additionally, the 57% response regarding the importance of EV charging stations came from 18 campers who already own an EV and another 28 who said they plan to buy one next year. It is a thin reed on which to float expectations, torn from a larger raft of dubious usefulness. As the polling company itself acknowledged, “it’s unclear how those who responded to the survey might be different from those who didn’t.”

For campground owners trying to get ahead, however, the caveat isn’t necessarily one of capital costs. Level 2 charging stations, which can charge an EV overnight, are relatively inexpensive: expect $500 for equipment and possibly a similar amount for installation. (Level 3 “fast” chargers, on the other hand, are commercial grade and therefore in an entirely different price category, starting from a minimum $20,000 per loader. That hasn’t deterred some speakers from pushing them anyway.) Assuming, therefore, that a campground wanted to dabble in the world of electric vehicles with half a dozen Level 2 chargers, it could doing it for around $6,000, which would win ‘n’t break anyone’s bank.

The larger and largely unresolved issue, however, was how campgrounds will be able to recoup their “fuel” costs. Since the amount of EV traffic in RV parks is still nominal, most campgrounds that allow EV charging, either through an RV cradle or through a dedicated charger , are currently absorbing the cost as loss of goodwill. Once this nominal expense becomes a growing impact on the bottom line, however, the inevitable question will become how RV parks can begin to charge for the energy they donated.

The answer, alas, is “it depends”.

Electricity sales, unlike gasoline, are monopolized by electric utilities operating under rules that vary from state to state, with billing practices that vary from utility to utility. ‘other. Most states, for example, don’t allow power dealers to make a profit doing so — all they can do is pass on their costs. A workaround proposed by a convention panelist, whereby campgrounds charge for kilowatts consumed at utility rates, but then add a “convenience fee” to allow electric vehicles to plug in, seems like a magnet. on trial for any public service jealously defending its territory. Meanwhile, seven states are still regulating electric vehicle charging as the exclusive field of power companies, as described in a recent Politico article.

A second variable is what’s known as the “application fee,” which many owners don’t encounter, but some business owners, including those who own campgrounds, know all too well. Demand charges are intended to compensate utilities for providing sufficient delivery infrastructure to meet peaks in demand caused by businesses with highly variable consumption, such as campgrounds. The power charge is a base charge that is multiplied by the kilowatts consumed at peak demand each month and added to the cost per kilowatt of the electricity itself.

The problem for campground owners is that there is no standard application fee across the country: these fees vary wildly from utility to utility. A relatively modest power load in one service area may be excessively high in an adjacent area. And while level 2 charging stations are not consumption black holes like level 3 stations, they can nevertheless add a noticeable boost to peak demand that will have a disproportionate effect on the final bill.

Campground owners, for these and other reasons, should abandon any idea of ​​installing Level 3 charging stations altogether. that application fees are up to 80% of the cost” of operating Level 3 charging stations. And those stations, remember, cost tens of thousands of dollars for hardware alone.

Sorting through such cost complexities requires a lot of study and perhaps the advice of a consultant – anything but ensuring that electric vehicles will remain a convention staple for some time to come, because there is money to be made by selling things. Too bad it’s not so true for the company to take on the elephants, no matter what destruction they cause. This requires real leadership, a rare commodity.


Andy Zipser is the author of Rent landthe story of his family’s experiences owning and operating an RV park in Virginia, and Turn the dirt, a step-by-step guide to finding, buying, and operating an RV park and campground. Both books are available in bookstores or on


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