HALSEY — Drivers using the new electric vehicle charging station at the Pioneer Villa Truck Plaza are “eclectic ... like a club,” according to owner Greg Moore.
On a recent Friday, three or four drivers used the AeroVironment Inc. charging system installed recently by the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Department of Energy and Pacific Power.
“It seems like the electric vehicle owners have their own network,” Moore said. “It’s kind of like they’re on a treasure hunt or a voyage, seeing how far they can go and mapping out where the charging stations are.”
The goal of the program dubbed the West Coast Electric Highway is to have charging stations spaced about 25 miles apart from the California-Mexico border to Vancouver, B.C., Moore said.
As of February, there were 1,221 all electric vehicles registered in the state — out of more than 3.26 million total passenger cars and trucks — according to ODOT.
“ODOT and everyone else has been great to work with,” Moore said. “They wanted a 30-year lease, but we opted for three five-year leases to start. Who knows, if electric vehicles get really popular, maybe we’ll have several charging stations.”
Moore said the truck plaza offers an excellent location for a charging station. It’s on exit 216 that connects Highway 228 with Interstate 5 and has both a motel and full-service restaurant. Drivers can spend the night or just pull off the interstate and have a cup of coffee or a meal while their vehicles’ batteries are charging.
Moore said the unit provides two charging options — slow, taking a few hours, or fast, taking fewer than 30 minutes.
“Plus, the drivers usually make sure their batteries have 20 or 30 percent charge left, so it doesn’t take long to charge them up,” Moore said.
A second charging station has also opened at the Sycan Office, 840 Beltline Road, behind Shari’s Restaurant in Springfield.
The new stations join eight units installed in March in southern Oregon. They are being spaced about every 25 miles along the interstate highway.
The newest stations were made possible by an additional $215,000 that the Oregon Department of Energy awarded ODOT in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) funding. It brings the project’s total funding to $915,000.
Electric vehicle drivers activate the charging stations by signing up for AeroVironment’s Charging Network at evsolutions .com/avnetwork or by
calling toll-free at 888-833-2148.
Once enrolled, drivers will receive an AV Network key fob that will allow access to all AeroVironment chargers along the West Coast Electric Highway. AeroVironment is also providing free charging for a limited time, then the key fob will act like a pre-paid credit card.
In addition to Halsey and Springfield, stations are now in Cottage Grove, Rice Hill, Roseburg, Canyonville, Wolf Creek, Grants Pass, Central Point, and Ashland.
Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy has funded a program called the EV Project managed by a ECOtality, a San Francisco based company that manufactures electric vehicle charging units and software.
In the last two years, ECOtality has gathered data about 4,600 vehicles and 6,200 charging stations in 18 markets, primarily in Washington, Oregon and California but also Arizona, Texas and Tennessee.
The vehicles have traveled more than 24 million miles — the equivalent of 963 trips around the world. The average daily distance is almost 28 miles, according to the latest ECOtality report.
The electric fuel equivalent represents nearly 1 million gallons of gasoline and 875 metric tons of CO2 that were not emitted into the air.