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The new DC charging station in Monmouth is capable of recharging an electric vehicle in around 20 minutes.
October 23, 2012
MONMOUTH -- If you travel around the Willamette Valley in a car that runs on electricity, you might want to pencil in Monmouth on your route.
The Oregon Department of Transportation installed last week an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot of Dairy Queen off Highway 99W as part of its ambitious "West Coast Electric Highway" initiative.
The project entails a network of direct current (DC) kiosks -- capable of recharging a car in 20 minutes -- and lower-voltage devices strategically placed on heavily-traveled highways in Oregon and Washington.
The goal is having enough stations to allow fully-electric or hybrid electric cars to travel the length of the Pacific Northwest on electricity alone.
Electric Vehicle Registrations
"If we can convince people to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, that's a plus," said Chuck Thurman, superintendent of Monmouth Power & Light.
"We've looked at electric vehicle stations before, as has Western Oregon University, but we have been waiting to see what the volume of use is," Thurman said. "If this is working well and gets adequate usage, we may look at installing others around town."
The "electric highway" is a collaboration between ODOT and the Washington Department of Transportation, backed by funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ten charging stations were established along Interstate 5 from Portland to Ashland when the project rolled out in 2010. There will be another 22 installed in Oregon before the end of December, said Ashley Horvat, project manager for ODOT. By early 2014, the agency will have established 43 sites. Total cost is $4.8 million.
Monmouth's is the fourth DC fast-charge station in Polk County. Eola Hills Wine Cellars in Rickreall installed three in September, unrelated to this project.
Grand Ronde will get one at Spirit Mountain Casino as part of the "electric highway" later this year. West Salem has four 240-volt Level II kiosks.
Hybrid Vehicle Registrations
The Dairy Queen spot was selected because of its location off Highway 99W; there are charging stations along 99W in Corvallis and McMinnville, Thurman said.
Dairy Queen's owners agreed to allow placement, while the city was contracted to install a three-phase transformer to isolate the device from disruptions to regular MP&L service, Thurman said.
"When an electric charger draws power, it draws a lot at once versus just turning on a light; that levels usage out over time," he said. "A fast draw could put a strain on the system."
ODOT is funding the network, but it will be maintained by AeroVironment, a charging station provider. Customers can utilize them by subscription or per visit.
An all-electric car, such as the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-MiEV, can use a DC charger; hybrids use Level II chargers.
"I drive a Leaf and it costs about $1 an hour to refuel," Horvat said.
To be sure, there hasn't been any local outcry for charging stations, Thurman said, adding that he's seen few all-electric cars in the community.
It's that relative scarcity of charging stations outside of large cities, however, that prevents most people from buying an electric or hybrid car, he said.
USDT will provide another $1.3 million to install 11 more chargers along the Oregon Coast, Columbia Gorge and routes to Central Oregon next year, Horvat said.