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Oregon EVs on a slow charge

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Articles - December 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Above: Quinn Sullivan converted his Saturn into an electric car because he was tired of rising gas prices. 
Below: The 2011 Nissan Leaf is available in a dozen or so test markets, including Oregon. Reservations for the 2012 Leaf are now being taken in 23 states, with another seven to be added by the end of the year.
// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina
The number of charging stations also is growing. In order to make EVs a reliable form of transportation, charging stations have to be nearly as numerous as gas stations. There were 20 public charging stations in Portland and Salem in autumn 2009; ECOtality has since brought that to a total of 325 residential charging stations and 92 publicly available charging stations in cities along the I-5 corridor in Oregon. The proliferation of charging stations is accelerating, according to Sen. Jeff Merkley, with a goal of 800 private and 800 public charging stations, along with a dozen quick-charging ones, being installed in the next two years.

In 2009, a company called eTec launched its EV Project, with a goal of installing 2,500 charging stations nationwide. The project would partner with Nissan and owners of its all-electric Leaf to collect and analyze charging data to improve the networks that will be installed in the future. Last year, eTec changed its name to ECOtality North America, and its EV Project was granted an additional $15 million by the U.S. Department of Energy in June 2010, bringing its total project funding to $230 million.

ECOtality’s charging stations are being installed at retail outlets, with two chargers at Woodburn Company Stores and two at the Portland IKEA, the company’s first chargers in the United States. A direct-current charger, the first in the nation, was installed at the Hollywood Fred Meyer in Portland in October. It can bring an EV battery from zero to 80% charged in 30 minutes. The EV Project also added the Chevy Volt as a partner in installing the residential chargers, bringing the total to 8,300 electric vehicle drivers participating nationwide. These early adopters each get a $1,200 credit toward home charging stations installed by ECOtality.

Bringing TV stars and European furniture superstores on board the electric-powered bandwagon gets the word out that the cars and chargers are on the market, but it will be some time before the infrastructure and the vehicles are ready for prime time.


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