Charge-up stations planned on U.S. 2

  • By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
  • Friday, January 14, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

If Mark Schnell of Brier and his wife drive one of their new electric vehicles over Stevens Pass next year, they won’t have to worry about it running out of juice.

The state and several businesses and local organizations are planning to install several charging stations for electric vehi

cles along U.S. 2 this year.

“It’s important that this type of system is built to support the cars,” said Schnell, who is buying a Tesla Model S. His wife is buying a Nissan Leaf.

The investment in U.S. 2 would make it the nation’s first National Scenic Byway equipped for electric vehicles, according to the state. A National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation for scenic or other special qualities.

The private groups also are planning on building stations at several tourist destination sites, including Stevens Pass ski area and others in the Leavenworth and Wenatchee area, officials said. In addition to the ski area, stations are planned by Leavenworth’s Sleeping Lady Resort and Icicle Ridge Winery, Wenatchee’s Convention Center, Town Toyota Center and SpringHill suites by Marriott Wenatchee Hotel.

The state itself is planning on building two or three stations spread over the length of U.S. 2, including on the west side of the mountains, said Tonia Buell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. Specific locations have yet to be determined.

The private sites could be built as early as next month, Buell said. The state, working with $1.3 million in federal economic stimulus money, must have its stations built by the end of 2011 as a condition of receiving the funds, she said.

Other efforts are underway to install charging stations along I-5. U.S. 2 is the first east-west route in the state to be targeted for stations, primarily because of local support on the east side of the mountains, Buell said.

“The tourist groups and businesses along U.S. 2 were really looking to target electric vehicle drivers as a new niche market,” she said.

Opportunities exist for property owners on the west side to participate as well, Buell said.

The state also is planning more stations along I-5. The first two sets of stations will be built at the state’s “gateway” rest stops — the Custer rest area north of Bellingham and the Gee Creek rest area north of Vancouver.

At least a couple of more are planned on I-5 north of Everett and south of Centralia at yet-to-be-determined locations, Buell said. The state plans to advertise for bids soon and those stations must be done by the end of the year as well, she said.

The goal is to eventually have charging sites located at least every 40 to 60 miles along the 276-mile length of I-5 from Oregon to Canada.

A private group, ECOtality,is working with government funds to find places for more than 1,200 charging stations in the central Puget Sound area, from Everett to Olympia, as part of the six-state EV Project. It’s hoped these can be installed by next fall.

The group is working with private property owners, said Rich Feldman, Pacific Northwest regional manager for the project. Feldman said he is seeking landowners in the Everett area interested in having stations built on their property.

In most cases, the stations would be located in places such as parking lots of shopping malls, where people can shop, eat or have coffee while they’re charging up, Buell said.

Charging stations come in three levels. The fastest, or “level three” chargers, can fully charge a vehicle in roughly half-an-hour. The second fastest, or level two, take three to eight hours. The slowest, or level one, take 8 to 12 hours.

Of the stations on U.S. 2, most of the private stations will be level two, Buell said. The state stations there and on most of I-5 will be level three, the fastest, while those at the rest stops near the borders will be level two.

In any case, drivers may “top off” at the stations, so they’re not necessarily spending hours there, Buell said.

Schnell said he and his wife didn’t commit to purchasing electric vehicles until they knew some charging stations were coming.

“We waited until the charging stations were going to be built before we actually made our decisions,” he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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