Oregon: The State With Its Own Chief EV Officer

By · November 22, 2013

Ashley Horvat

Oregon's very own Chief EV Officer, Ashley Horvat, has been in office since April. (Jim Motavalli photo)

“Just a short drive from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is the most well-known of Oregon’s 17 wine-growing regions.” So reads one of five itineraries on the Travel Oregon site designed to help electric car drivers vacation…with their vehicles.

Serious About EVs

Oregon is hugely serious about electric cars. As far as I can tell, it’s the only state with its own Chief EV Officer, in the person of the hard-working Ashley Horvat. This is no make-work volunteer title: she is employed by the state DOT, and was "designated as the state lead on EVs through an agreement with Governor John Kitzhaber." There's a complex mission that includes managing the $4 million fast-charge network in the state's portion of the West Coast Electric Highway.

Horvat is also charged not only with getting more Oregonians buying EVs, but bringing in electric car-driving tourists from northern California, British Columbia and Washington. It’s feasible, now that the I5 corridor is fully operational with fast charging all the way.

Charging at the Hood River

Fast charging at the Hood River, the most popular of the state stops. (Harry Dalgaard III/Travel Oregon photo)

“Tourists can come in with their own cars, or else, through an agreement with Nissan, rent them from Enterprise or Hertz,” said Horvat, who also attended the big international EVS 27 conference in Spain this week as part of her work marketing the state. “We’re also hoping the tourism program will educate people in the state, by bringing EVs to parts of Oregon that normally don’t see many of them.”

The Brewery Stop

Oregon will have 43 fast chargers (with AeroVironment as a partner) by sometime next year, and already there have been 10,000 “parking events” of people charging at them. Horvat points out that the most popular destination is a charger on the Hood River, next to Full Sail Brewing Company. Driving their EVs an hour from Portland, tourists can relax, have a beer, and watch the windsurfers and kiters on the Columbia River. “We’re seeing a lot of usage for our fast chargers,” Horvat said.

Pioneer Square EVs

EVs gather in Portland's Pioneer Square on EV Celebration Day. (Patrick Connor photo)

Harry Daalgard III, a destination development specialist with Travel Oregon, says that “a lot of our popular tourism routes are now EV-accessible.” Most of the infrastructure is in western Oregon, but that’s home to 80 percent of state’s the population, Daalgard said. He said that Oregon is now just two fast chargers away from having the entire western seaboard of the state accessible (50 to 60 miles apart).

If you want, you can visit covered bridges by EV, sample local wines, do a coastal loop, visit Mount Hood, or journey to the Rogue River National Forest.

According to Horvat, who took office last April, there are now approximately 3,500 electric cars, including plug-in hybrids, in Oregon. In Portland, the Nissan LEAF is outselling all other Nissan models. And Nissan, Honda, Ford and General Motors have joined in a new Energize Oregon Coalition. Robert Langford of Honda praised the coalition for “pulling together the key stakeholders and decision-makers in Oregon to promote adoption of electric vehicles.”

Oregon EVs

EVs, including a Tesla Roadster, lined up in Portland. (Portland Development Commission photo)

Number Two, But Trying Harder

A chart put together by the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers shows Oregon in second place in battery EV sales among states that follow California emission rules. Battery electric cars have 1.2 percent of the light-duty vehicle market in California, and nine tenths of one percent in Oregon. “We’re right behind,” Horvat said.

The state could perhaps do more to subsidize EV purchases. There’s currently no direct rebate, as there is in California. But Oregon offers a 25 percent tax credit for residents who buy EV chargers (up to $750), and businesses will get a 35 percent credit beginning in January. That same credit is available to companies that buy two or more alternative fuel vehicles.

But Portland, which has by far the most registrations per capita, can also boast about its Electric Avenue for downtown charging (on the Portland State campus). It’s in a lead position in Oregon, but the whole state is becoming EV-savvy. Thanks, in part, to its very own Chief EV Officer.

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