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Expanding Eastern Washington State’s EV Infrastructure

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Washington currently has 16,000 electric vehicles and plans to more than triple this number by 2020. Most of this development will occur in the state’s western metropolitan areas. Between 350 – 400 EV owners are in Avista Utilities service area.  Now the utility is expanding eastern Washington’s EV Infrastructure.

Greenlots mobile

“The time is right to explore how we can support early EV adoption and learn how we can best serve customers in a cost effective way that benefits all electric customers. EVs are flexible load, that can often be charged during times of off peak energy use. If you can do more of that, you are better utilizing existing grid assets. This helps keep costs down and reduces rate pressure. (The pilot program) will help us be in a better position to design smart programs for the long term,” said Rendall Farley, Electric Transportation Manager at Avista Utilities.

Rendall Farley, Electric Transportation Manager at Avista Utilities

Mostly Residential & Workplace Chargers

Avista has chosen Greenlots for a two-year charging pilot project.

It will install 120 Level 2 chargers in single-family and multi-family residences. Another 80 Level 2 chargers will be available to the public at select workplaces.

“A certain amount of infrastructure is needed, but not nearly as much as people think. We’ve got every aspect of charging that is needed, roughly in the ratio that we feel is appropriate based on research. Most people don’t drive more than 30 miles a day. (This means) 80% of the charging can be done at home. Another big chunk can be done at work,” said Farley.

“By implementing smart charging programs, you can ensure that residential customers have a full charge in the morning, when they need it, and spread the charging sessions over a period of time so that it has less of an impact on the local grid. This avoids the need for expensive electrical upgrades,” added Brett Hauser, CEO of Greenlots.

Longer Trips

“Can you take that occasional longer trip in your EV? The answer in our region, right now, is ‘no.’ There is a certain amount of public infrastructure that is needed to facilitate that longer trip. Right now you need a second vehicle or a plug-in hybrid vehicle,” said Farley

“Seven DC fast chargers will (be installed to) allow people to travel greater distances,” said Hauser.

He added, “50 kilowatt chargers are fine for today’s EVS, but you are going to have bigger batteries coming out. In the not too distant future we are going to be having 100 and 150 kilowatt charge stations for long distance. Utilities are the ones that are going to be able to step up and make the investment that will make the investment to enable not only local but also long distance travel within their territories.”

Avista Utilities provides services and electricity to 375,000 customers and natural gas to 335,000 customers in a service territory that covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon

Increasing Awareness

“To me, (the state’s goal of) 50,000 EVS is a strategic opportunity that over time can add significant benefits to the economy and environment. Driving electric means being part of the less expensive and much cleaner energy future that doesn’t depend so much on gasoline. It keeps more money in the local economy. For us as a utility, this is integral to our duty to provide reliable, safe electricity at the lowest possible cost,” said Farley.

“A recent report from UC Davis suggests the biggest barrier to EV adoption is simply lack of awareness of what we already have. The auto makers are not pushing EVs. The auto dealers are not pushing EVs for a variety of reasons. A lot of people do not understand that there is an electric vehicle that can serve their needs and is within their price range,” said Farley.

“A lot of people purchase an EV because it is good for the environment and then are surprised at how much they love driving the car. It is fun. The electric motor gives you instant torque. They are super zippy, quiet — this is an entirely different driving experience.  Most people are not aware of that. You can’t intellectualize that. It is an experience you must have. It will take time.”

Looking To The Future

Green lots charger - Courtesy Greenlots

Hauser added, “If you look at the Paris Accord, between 16% and 33% of all vehicles on U.S. roads are going to have to be electric. People are more aware of climate change and the importance of trying to have a sustainable future.”

“There is no doubt that we are moving towards electrified transportation. Look at cities like Los Angeles, who has mandated that 80% of their fleet purchases will be electric by 2025. Then you have the White House announcement last week, that $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for infrastructure. Then we have the longer range batteries that everyone is coming out with.

“Economically, it is going to make more sense for drivers to be using electric vehicles. There is no arguing with the fact that the total operating cost of an electric is much cheaper than an internal combustion engine. It doesn’t require (all the) upkeep and maintenance. Once you have the range and access to charging when you need it, then you do reach that tipping point.

“Utilities such as Avista know they have to start thinking about what their system is going to look like in 5, 10 and 15 years. If they don’t start planning now, they’ll be way behind.”

Photo Credits:Greenlots mobile – Courtesy Greenlots; Rendall Farley, Electric Transportation Manager – Courtesy Avista Utilities; Avista Service Area – Courtesy Avista; Green lots charger – Courtesy Greenlots

 
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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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