Two of the year’s highest-rated cars are electric. The plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt was awarded this year’s “Car of the Year,” just beating out the all-electric Nissan LEAF. About 50,000 people are on waiting lists for electric vehicles.
The first mass-production electric cars hit the road this year. Up and down the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, municipalities, utilities and electric vehicle infrastructure companies are building charging station networks at an accelerating rate. Beyond automakers themselves, the rollout of electric cars will create opportunities for charger manufacturers, energy services companies, smart grid integrators and utilities.
Oregon is one of seven test markets for the largest deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) and the associated charging infrastructure in history. ECOtality (formerly eTec of Phoenix), is receiving $130 million in federal stimulus funds to support a project to deploy EV charging stations and analyze the use of the stations and the behavior of EV drivers to guide widespread adoption throughout the country. They are partnering with Nissan North America to deploy approximately 1,000 Nissan electric cars (called the “Leaf”) in Oregon and as many as 2,500 charging stations to be installed at homes and businesses that choose to purchase the Leaf and participate in the program. The grant will focus on the Portland, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis areas.
“Electric vehicles are clearly a technology that’s been embraced,” said Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. “Every element of the value chain is starting to show up.” By 2015, automakers are expected to sell more than 3.1 million electric vehicles in the United States, according to a report by Pike Research. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are among the first to appear in showrooms, with about 20 other models slated to go on sale over the next three years, including models from Coda Automotive, Fisker Automotive, Ford, Mitsubishi and Toyota.
Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles are all included in federally funded programs to install electric vehicle chargers. Portland city officials enacted an electric vehicle plan last year that streamlines electrical permitting for charger installation and electrifies the municipal fleet. There are currently only about 400 all-electric vehicles registered in Oregon, but within a decade, the Oregon Dept of Transportation estimates, plug-in cars could account for as much as 20 percent of new vehicles sold in Oregon.
Currently, the biggest limitation for drivers thinking about making the transition to EVs is the need for a reliable network of charging facilities to increase the range of these vehicles and to alleviate any fear of “running out of juice.” Surveys indicate that ease and accessibility of charging rank at the top of potential buyers’ concerns about electric vehicles.
Most electric vehicle charging will happen at home, but charging companies are also vying to supply the 4.7 million charging stations public stations that are estimated in the next five years. Overall, the federal government is pouring $5 billion into electric vehicle technologies, including batteries and charging stations, while state and local governments are also funding rollouts.
On Sept. 29, 2010, Governor Kulongoski announced that ODOT will receive $700,000 in federal stimulus funds to install up to eight EV fast charging stations in southern Oregon from Eugene to Ashland. In October, ODOT was awarded an additional $2 million from the TIGER II program of the U.S. Department of Transportation for up to two dozen EV fast charging stations. Both of these projects will be pursued as public/private partnerships the ODOT’s Office on Innovative Partnerships. www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/OIPP/inn_ev-charging.shtml
Join us at this year’s SolWest Fair July 29-31, for the “John Day or Bust” Electric Vehicle Convergence. See www.solwest.org and www.johndayorbust.com for more information. Email email@example.com for charging points.