By John Addison (6/21/12)
Oregon is taking the lead in the dream of driving your electric car from Mexico to Canada. A network of fast charging stations is already in place in Oregon along the U.S. Interstate 5 Freeway which connects the southern boarder of California to the northern boarder of Washington. The West Coast Green Highway is a vision that is becoming a reality.
Driving home from a friend’s graduation at Oregon State University, my wife and I stopped at a busy gas station in Canyonville. At the edge of the station was the pictured EV Charger with a Level 2 Charger suitable for all electric vehicles and a DC Fast Charger which can 80 percent charge in 25 minutes a Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi I, or other EV with the standard Chademo fast charge port. Drivers of plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Prius Plug-in and many others will use the Level 2 chargers.
Canyonville is one of ten AeroVironment charge stations now open at convenient locations, with seven along Interstate 5 and three along US2. Eight of the stations include DC Fast Charge. Any driver who has joined the AeroVironment Subscriber Network can plug-in their electric car, then use their AV keyfob to start the charging.
The freeway charge stations included AeroVironment Level 2 and DC Fast Chargers. In Portland, ECOtality as part of the DOE EV Project that includes California, Oregon, Washington, and other states is installing charge stations. When walking the campus at Corvallis, I noticed a number of Level 2 chargers installed by Coulomb, which has over 30 charge points installed in Oregon and over 800 from Vancouver B.C. to San Diego.
The two West Coast Green Highway locations, which I visited, were easy to find with GPS or simply following signs from the freeway. They were next to restaurants where you could enjoy coffee, tea, or a meal while charging. Motels were near from those wanting overnight Level 2 charges.
Eventually, the West Coast Green Highway will span 1,300 miles from boarder to boarder, with public fast charge locations every 25 to 60 miles. Public and private partners would also like to see participation of private fuel operators providing alt-fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen, and advanced biofuels.
In reality, most use of electric cars will be in cities and university towns, where people meet their daily commutes within the 40 to 100 mile range of home garage charges. My wife and I meet most of our weekly driving needs with our Nissan LEAF without using public charging. For our long journey from San Francisco to Corvallis, we drove our Honda Civic Hybrid. When the West Coast Green Highway is complete, we will start using our LEAF for long-distance drives.
The journey from Baja California to British Columbia includes dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean, towering snow-covered mountains, and lush forests. It also includes 50 million people working, traveling to school, and seeing friends and family. Compared to other nations, this three state corridor uses more petroleum fuel than nations including Japan, India, and Germany. Only the United States and China use more oil for gasoline and diesel. Yet petroleum use is on the decline, even as population grows thanks to electric vehicles, new fuel efficiency standards, and improved public transportation. The West Coast is turning to its abundance of power from the wind, sun, rushing waters, bio-waste and geothermal.