West Coast Electric Highway Well Under Way

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I-5 EV Charging Network

Interstate 5 on the American west coast just became part of electric vehicle history — a 160-mile stretch has just gotten 8 new fast-charging stations as part of the new West Coast Electric Highway. Spaced 20-25 miles apart, the new fast-charging stations start at California’s northernmost border and head north to Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Electric Caravan

A number of electric car drivers joined a caravan Friday to inaugurate the first big section of the West Coast Electric Highway, the section that just received the fast-charge stations. At the moment, the drivers can recharge their batteries for free, which takes only about 20 minutes per charge.

An EV charging station network is necessary to promote the use of electric cars, and the west coast is making the right moves to support it. The governors of Oregon, California, and Washington signed an agreement way back in 2009 to turn I-5 into the Electric Highway in support of EVs, and Oregon signed an additional agreement with Nissan to aggressively install charging stations if Nissan aggressively sold EVs within the state.

Easy as 1, 2, 3?

The latest round of EV charging station installations is financed by federal stimulus grants, with three types of charging stations installed. Level 1 chargers draw 110 volts (like a household outlet) and charge an EV slowly. Level 2 draws 240 volts and charges a battery pack in three to four hours. Level 3 uses 480 volts of direct current and charges a battery pack to 80% in less than half an hour. Each of the 8 new stations on I-5 have a level 3 charger with a level 2 back-up charger.

I-5 will have more level 3 stations by the end of the year, going all the way up to the Canadian border to cover roughly 550 miles of interstate. An additional 22 level 3 charging stations will be installed throughout Oregon.

Cleaner Air, Cleaner Environment

The stations are even easy to use. The company making the stations, AeroVironment, Inc., provides a driver with an electronic key fob when they sign up with the AeroVironment charging program. Drivers can then use the fob when they drive up and can plug in their car 24/7, and the stations can be found with a smartphone or with software on the cars themselves.

AeroVironment’s senior vice president, Wahid Nawabi, spoke briefly to the Washington Post about the necessity of a charging network supporting electric cars, and he really hit the nail on the head:

“For [EV] drivers to build confidence in driving hundreds of miles like they do in gas cars, they need an infrastructure.”

The West Coast isn’t the only place welcoming EVs with its very own recharging network — Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurants have a network of charging stations along the interstates between Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga in Tennessee for lower emissions in the deep South as well as way out west. And, as reported last week, Spain is investing big in an EV transportation future with abundant supply of EV chargers.

Questions or opinions? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Washington Post
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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