Sponsored by Oregon Business

Electric vehicle hype bigger than investment

| Print |  Email
Articles - September 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
The nation's first high-speed charging station opened in Portland last month. // PHOTO COURTESY OF NISSAN

It was a glamorous press conference for an underground parking garage. Gov. Ted Kulongoski wore a pink tie and shared the stage at the August event with executives from Portland General Electric, Nissan and NEC to promote the nation’s first quick-charge station for electric vehicles, built by NEC underneath PGE’s Portland headquarters. Kulongoski praised the charger as “another critical step in the transition” from fossil fuels to EVs, and then zipped out for a test drive of the new Nissan Leaf.

With state support, PGE, Nissan and other businesses are building a network of charging stations from Portland to Eugene in preparation for a flurry of purchases once the latest EVs arrive. Oregon is also one of five states sharing in a $100 million federal grant to expand EV business and collect market data from drivers.

But there’s more to leading the transition to electric vehicles than buying the latest Nissan. Major local investments from Norwegian carmaker Think Global and Chinese battery giant BYD have fallen through, and EV startups from Portland to Eugene to Ashland are struggling to get rolling.

In Northwest Portland, Porteon CEO Ken Montler has a light prototype that maxes out at 35 mph for around-town trips. He hopes to manufacture in Portland once he secures funding. “There’s a whole lot of interest here in Oregon, but you need investors,” he says.

The same applies for Arcimoto, the Eugene-based designer of a three-wheeled EV called the Pulse. The nine-employee company has received a few dozen $500 deposits through its website but needs backing to crank out its first 500 cars in 2011 as planned. Arcimoto CEO Mark Frohnmayer is looking for “early-stage investors whose portfolio strategy includes doing well by saving the planet.”

Ambiente Motors founder Melissa Brandao has a similar pitch but a different plan. She’s trying to raise money for a design and marketing center in Ashland while a sister company in Brazil builds the vehicles — lightweight, nimble electric trucks for in-city commercial use.

Brandao, the only woman running an EV company in the world, has experience starting up businesses in foreign countries from Russia to Chile. She believes Brazil is an ideal market for EVs designed in Oregon because the economy is growing quickly there with a strong emphasis on green. She isn’t hiring yet, but she has five employees identified and ready to work — once the money comes through.


More Articles

Bendafornia: What’s driving the Northern California migration?

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
bendiforniathumbBY KEN MAES

A huge migration from Northern California has contributed to average 16% growth per year since 1990.


Baby. Boom!

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A new co-working model disrupts office sharing, child care and work-life balance as we know it.


After the Orange Line

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
090815-trimet-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.


Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A conversation with Chris Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.


The List: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For project attracted more than 150 nonprofits from around the state from a variety of sectors, including social services and environmental advocacy.  More than 5,000 employees and volunteers filled out the survey, rating their satisfaction with work environment, mission and goals, career development and learning, benefits and compensation, and management and communications.


Big Geek

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

To attract technology companies, the U.S. Bancorp Tower repositions itself as open, light and playful.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02