Pacific Northwest Builds Out Rapid Charging Network for Electric Cars

By · February 18, 2014

AV charging station at Sky Deli in Skynomish, Wash.

The AV charging station at Sky Deli in Skynomish, Wash. is on Highway 2 and allows travelers headed east or west to fill up with a DC fast charge or top off with the Level 2 post.

Considering the capability of today's battery technology, most electric cars are much best suited to local in-town driving. Road trips are problematic, and in some cases, simply impossible. However, some progressive regions are aiming to make long-distant travel a possibility for electric vehicle owners, by building out DC fast-charging networks. The result, they hope, will be worry-free EV travel.

Take the State of Washington. It has built a network of charging points that run north to south and east to west. The chargers are designed to connect communities with the largest number of EV users, Tonia Buell, project development and communications manager of public-private partnerships with the Washington State Department of Transportation, told PluginCars.com. Each has both a DC fast charger and a Level 2 240V plug.

“It is really about the fast chargers,” said Buell, “so people can travel longer distances.”

With a DC quick charge, an electric car driver can recharge from empty to nearly full in about 25 minutes. This can add back about 60 to 70 miles of range, if a car is traveling at highway speeds. Therefore, an EV driver can travel for a little more than one hour on the highway before needing to stop to refuel for about 20 to 25 minutes. This is not nearly as convenient as long-distance travel in a gas-powered car. Nonetheless, leisurely road trips—say, for sightseeing or vacation travel—become possible. (EVs with bigger batteries, such as the Tesla Model S and other potential future models, will be able to travel much longer distances between recharging events.)

Fees Required Starting in April

The charging points are the Washington State portion of the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of fast chargers located every 25 to 50 miles on Interstate 5 and other major highways in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon and British Columbia are also adding fast charging along the highway.

All the stations in Washington, which were opened in 2012, were supplied by Aerovironment. The 12 stations are used more than 1,000 times each month, said Buell.

Image 01

Plug-in North Central Washington LLC raised money to install Level 2 chargers at businesses by hosting special purpose EV events such as the Ice Age Tour, which visited various geological sites, and a winery tour.

The charging stations are currently free to use. That will change on April 1, when users will have to start paying for a charge. Aerovironment has not officially announced the pricing yet, but Buell said users will have the option of paying a $19.99 a month flat fee to Aerovironment for unlimited charging on any West Coast Electric Highway Station in Washington or Oregon, or paying a charge each time they use it.

Anyone who has a credit card will be able to use the stations by calling a number printed on the charge post, but the amount per charge has not been finalized, said Buell. “It will likely be somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.50 per DC fast charge and $5.00 for Level 2 use,” she said.

At least one EV a day uses the AV charger at Sky Deli in Skykomish, Wash. along Highway 2, said Deli co-owner Misty Greene. She sees LEAFs, and Volts hooked up to the station. “There are two Teslas, a maroon one and a black one, that are regulars,” Greene told PluginCars.com.

Tourism Boost

Residents of Washington State are already EV enthusiasts. As of December 31, 2013 there were 7,896 plug-in vehicles registered in Washington, including 5,371 all-electric, said Buell. That is a 47 percent increase on end-July 2013, she said. Nissan LEAFs are far and away the majority with 4,179, followed by the Chevy Volt at 1,395 and the Tesla Model S at 1,064.

To make long distance travel in an EV even easier, Plug-in North Central Washington LLC is working with local businesses in the eastern Washington counties of Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan to install Level 2 charging stations that will serve as supplements to the DC points, Ron Johnston-Rodriguez, president of Plug-In North Central Washington told PluginCars.com. “We have been involved in the empty spaces in between” the State-installed fast-charging stations, said Johnston-Rodriguez.

Plug-In North Central Washington raised nearly $19,000 to fund the stations through several tours for EV owners, one showing off the region’s geology, the other its wine country.

The money is buying Clipper Creek Level 2 240V chargers—Tesla drivers prefer them, according to Johnston-Rodriguez—which are being installed at businesses along several highways in Washington. The businesses pay the cost of installation and offer free charging for three years after which they can buy the chargers for $500, said Johnston-Rodriguez.

Five businesses already have the Level 2 chargers installed; an additional nine will be installed by May, he said. Among the locations: A Marriott in Wenatchee, and the Icicle Inn and the Forty-Niner Diner in Leavenworth.

Johnston-Rodriguez is talking to more businesses about adding chargers and planning more EV events. “We are going to be specifically targeting Volt, C-Max, and Tesla drivers,” he said.

Washington State is also looking to expand its DC charging network; there is a $5 million request before the legislature for more funding, said Buell. They will know in a few months if it passes. If it does, the Electric Highway in will be expanded to Spokane and beyond, said Buell.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

I proud to say that our BC2BC www.AllElectricVehicleRally.org has brought a lot of attention to the West Coast Electric Highway, and the state of California's lack of participation in it.

If you would like to see that changed, please write you state legislature representative or the governor's office. Tell them to FUND THE CALIFORNIA WEST COAST ELECTRIC HIGHWAY NOW !!!!

Please join us this summer at the Long Beach Arena for the World's Largest Electric Vehicle Gathering on August 10, 2014, 9am until 12:30pm, immediately followed by the BC2BC-2014 rally.

We need 1000 EV's in Long Beach.

Tony Williams
Rally Organizer
1500 Miles from Mexico to Canada
August 10, 2014 until August 17, 2014
www.AllElectricVehicleRally.org Official Website
www.Twitter.com/QCpower #BC2BC
https://www.Facebook.com/groups/AllElectricVehicleRally

· · 4 years ago

Great idea, and thanks TonyWilliams.

The current number of plug-in electrc vehicles in California is ~70,000 with another 20-30,000 to be registered in 2014. Yet the number of hydrogen fueled vehicles is just a few hundred, mostly demo vehicles. Recently, California's governor signed bill AB 8 that includes a provision to fund at least 100 hydrogen stations with a commitment of up to $20 million a year (through 2024) without providing funding for electric vehicle DCFC highway infrastructure. Current Californa DCFC implementation project are limited to Los Angles and BayArea metro areas. http://cafcp.org/getinvolved/stayconnected/blog/governor_brown_signs_ab_8
I'm not trying to pit fuel-cell electric vehicles vs. pure-electric vehicles, just saying funding for infrastructure should be consistent to the number of current users and need.

For example, funding of just $1-$2 million would fund 8-12 DCFC station locations to complete the section of the West Coast Electric Highway from California-Oregon boarder to Sacromento, CA (state capital). eg: Washington state's initial 12 DCFC stations was implented with $2 million in funding. Washington's governor is currently seeking $5 million supplemental funding to further expand Washington's electric-highway network. British Columbia (allows EV travel north of Washington) is now halfway through installing 13 DCFC locations. Oregon is the ideal EV tourist state with many destinations on the most electrified highway infrastructure in North America. EV travelers can visit many beaches, wineries, find great roadside food, or take to snowy mountain slopes without range limitations.

Looking forward to seeing a 1000 all-electrc vehicles gathered in Long Beach. :)

· · 4 years ago

So how does this work?
Washington State Department of Transportation is the government entity, who use public funds to install these chargers.
And AeroEnvironment is a private company who sell and install the charging stations.

So basically its an initiative by the government right?

Does this happen all over US?
Or are there states, where private companies install these chargers without Government help?

Thanks,
Kamlesh
pluginIndia.com

· · 4 years ago

Nice to see so much support for EV's on the west side of the state and I've been waiting to see some charging stations pop up on the East side (Spokane) but there seems to be very little of that happening here. Also, I work on the Air Force base here and was told I could not plug in at work even though I offered to pay for it. I don't need to plug in to complete my commute but my concern is that on cold nights I would need to plug in to keep the battery warm and also to preheat before heading back home. Absolutely forbidden where I work so for now I have to hold off on buying an electric car. Drives me crazy that there is so little support in Spokane because I really really want to stop buying gas.

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