David Jankowsky believes Oklahoma is absolutely ready to become the electric vehicle capital of the world.

“It is at our fingertips,” he said.

Jankowsky, president of Francis Energy, was not, as one might suspect these days, simply parroting the enthusiasm many Tulsans feel about the possibility of Tesla building its next factory here.

He’s making a larger point: Oklahoma is better positioned than any other state in the country to welcome Tesla or any other electric vehicle manufacturer.

Not only does the state offer cheap land, inexpensive utilities and a strong workforce, Jankowsky said, it’s got the EV infrastructure necessary for Oklahomans to drive the cars once they roll off the assembly line.

“Every 50 miles in Oklahoma now has a supercharger,” he said. “… That makes Oklahoma No. 3 in total superchargers installed in its state, behind California and Washington. We’re not even that far behind Washington — and (we have) more than New York, more than Texas.

“Second, we are the only state where every 50 miles has a supercharger. That is pretty incredible.”

Francis Energy installed 225 supercharger stations in 191 locations across the state in less than 10 months last year. The superchargers can charge most electric vehicles, including Teslas, in seven to 90 minutes. Tesla also has its own proprietary network of superchargers.

“What we want to do, and I think what the state wants to do, is go to every other manufacturer and say, ‘Hey, look, we have the infrastructure, we are the only state that has the infrastructure, you want to sell your Ford F-150s and your Chevys, this is going to be a great market because we have the infrastructure,’ ” Jankowsky said. “... I think in part that is why Tesla is seriously considering Tulsa.”

Francis Energy used state incentives to help fund the creation of the supercharger network. The network addresses not only what is known as “range anxiety ”— concern over whether you can find a place to charge your vehicle — but also opens up the electric vehicle market to Oklahoma’s many rural communities.

Jankowsky said his company has received a warm welcome from towns across the state that believe the superchargers could help spur their economies by bringing in people who would not otherwise have had a reason to stop and look around.

“This is going to give you (smaller towns) a captive person that is in your town that hopefully they are going to do some stuff,” he said.

The energy company hopes to eventually expand its supercharger network so EV drivers can go all the way to Florida and California without ever worrying about a charge. The company is already working with eight surrounding states to get the infrastructure installed.

“We are going to spend the next three to five years building this out regionally and just give Oklahoma drivers more places to go using our network,” Jankowsky said.

The other key to expanding the use of electric vehicles, Jankowsky said, is education. Many people, for example, believe the cars are too expensive and will always be too expensive.

Not true, he says. Although prices today are still too high for most people, that is going to change soon.

“A majority of the car’s cost is the battery, and battery prices have come down, like, 80% in the last eight years and 20% last year,” Jankowsky said. “So that rate is accelerating and probably within two to three years we’re going to get to a price point for the battery where manufacturers now can start building $35,000 to $45,000 cars with 300-plus mile ranges.”

Jankowsky said it’s also important to remember that the cost to operate and maintain an electric vehicle is substantially less than it is to operate and maintain a combustion engine vehicle.

“The average Oklahoma EV driver will save anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500 a year just by buying an electric vehicle,” he said. “That is from fuel savings and avoided maintenance.”

No one knows for sure when Tesla will announce where it plans to construct its Cybertruck Gigafactory. The facility is expected to build electric pickups and Model Y small SUVs and employ as many as 10,000 people. Austin, Texas, according to The Associated Press, is the other finalist for the project.

But Jankowsky believes what is clear is that Tesla’s massive investment in the industry — and similar ventures by lesser known companies — all point to an inevitable switch to electric vehicles.

Think of it like the flip phone and the smartphone.

“How quickly did we pivot from a flip phone to a smartphone?” Jankowsky said. “We did it very, very quickly.

“Why? Because it was so much better of a product.”

To view a map of charging locations in the state, go to bit.ly/charginglocations.


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Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313

kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @AWorldofKC

Staff Writer

Kevin Canfield has covered local government in Tulsa for nearly two decades. He also has reported on downtown development, zoning and community planning.