Monroe will get charging station for electric cars

MONROE — The Electric Highway is coming to Snohomish County.

The county’s first electric-vehicle charging station to be built as part of the state’s own network is scheduled to be installed soon in Monroe.

The station will be built at the Chevron station at 19912 U.S. 2, at the east end of town near the intersection with E. Main Street and Old Owen Road.

The station, to include two separate charging outlets, is expected to be open by March, said Tonia Buell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

The station is one of nine planned by the state on U.S. 2 and I-5 as part of its “Electric Highway” system.

In addition to Monroe, stations are planned in Skykomish and Leavenworth on U.S. 2 and Bellingham, Burlington, Olympia, Centralia, Longview-Kelso and Ridgefield on I-5. The chargers are financed with a $1.3 million federal grant.

AeroVironment of Monrovia, Calif., has been selected to build the stations for the state. Agreements have been reached with property owners at most of the locations, said Kristen Helsel, vice president of EV Solutions, a division of AeroVironment.

Preliminary work, such as establishing utility connections, has begun at many of the locations, she said. The Bellingham station, at the Sehome Village shopping center, is the furthest along, with a groundbreaking celebrated two weeks ago.

It’s possible that all the stations could be open by the middle of February, Helsel said.

Most of the chargers are near gas stations, restaurants, hotels or other businesses where people can spend time while juicing up their vehicles, she said.

Each station is scheduled to be fitted with a “DC fast charger” and a standard, “level 2” charger, Helsel said. The fast charger can power a car from zero to full in less than 30 minutes, while a level 2 charger takes about four to six hours. Drivers also may choose to “top off” for shorter periods of time.

AeroVironment will charge some type of a fee for the use of the outlets, with the prices yet to be determined, said John Soriano, a spokesman for the company. It could work either by subscription, similar to a cell phone plan, or simply per-use via credit card, he said.

Donald Eaton, who owns the Chevron station in Monroe, said he will receive a small percentage of the proceeds.

He said the AeroVironment group approached him about building the chargers.

His gas station, which includes a convenience store, is located on the right side of U.S 2 for drivers headed east, at the last major intersection before leaving town. He has a parking lot large enough to accommodate space for the chargers, he said.

“The convenience of our location is perfect,” he said.

Eaton believes it will be awhile before the chargers provide any kind of major bump for his business. Still, he was drawn by “the notoriety of being one of the first to accommodate the electric vehicles,” he said.

Other stations have been installed in Snohomish County and the Seattle metro area by local governments and by private companies working with federal grants.

With these sites and those planned by the state on I-5, drivers of electric vehicles will be able to go down I-5 from Canada to Oregon without having to worry about running out of electricity.

Publicly available stations already may be found at several locations around Snohomish County, including the county’s downtown parking garage and three parks: McCollum Park in south Everett, Willis Tucker Park near Mill Creek and the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, according to Allen Mitchell, vehicle fleet manager for the county.

ECOtality, a San Francisco-based company, also recently installed two chargers each at Fred Meyer stores in Everett and on 164th Street SW in north Lynnwood, according to Rich Feldman, Pacific Northwest regional manager for the firm. The company plans to install at least one DC fast charger at a yet-to-be-determined location near I-5 in Everett, he said.

About 630 chargers have been installed in homes in the Puget Sound area by ECOtality, Feldman said. More have been installed by other companies, such as ChargePoint.

Many of these chargers have been installed in garages in conjunction with sales of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, which became available to the public in the past year.

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