CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — At the Chevron station just off of Interstate 5, gas costs more than $4 a gallon. But electric vehicle owners can plug their cars into a quick-charge console and juice up for free. A full charge takes about 20 minutes.
It’s one of eight quick-charge stations the Oregon Department of Transportation just opened between Medford and Cottage Grove to support long-distance electric car trips. The stations were funded by an Oregon Department of Energy stimulus grant and built by AreoVironment.
Washington State is also in the process of installing dozens of new charging stations. State officials say that by the end the year, you’ll be able to plug in at stops along 1-5 from the California state line to the Canadian border. The network of stations has been dubbed The West Coast Electric Highway.
“It’s going to be the nation’s largest network of charging, with more than 100 quick charge stations,” says Tonia Buel, with the Washington Department of Transportation.
A small convoy of Nissan Leafs pulled quietly up to charge at the Central Point quick-charge grand opening on Friday, and local E.V. owners plotted new adventures. Bruce Sargent runs the Buckhorn Springs resort 20 miles outside Ashland, and estimates his Leaf saves him more than $200 a month.
“It’s perfect for us. We do a lot of in and out of town. We were spending about $260 month on gas, and also just not feeling right about using all that gas.”
Sargent says this trip to Central Point is the furthest he’s traveled in his EV to date, but he will see how far north he can get with the help of the quick-charge stations.
“My son has three soccer games this weekend in Portland, so I’m hoping I can make it up there.”
Electric Highway How-To
- Charging is free at AreoVironment stations- for now.
- To activate stations, you need a key fob.
- Sign up at EV Solutions.
- Or call 888-833-2148.
Neal Appleton, a Nissan Leaf owner and retiree from Grants Pass, says that 90 percent of his driving is in town, mainly to his volunteer work. The new quick-charge stations will give him enough range to drive himself to doctors’ appointments in Medford.
“The days of cheap energy, of getting sweet low sulfur grade oil out of the ground 100 feet down, it’s coming to an end someday. We need to work on that, and this is one step,” Appleton says.
Electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf can go between 60 and 100 miles before needing to recharge. Tonia Buel hopes the new electric infrastructure along I-5 will make EVs more attractive.
“The people that have electric vehicles now are early adopters. And this will actually give peace of mind to the more, the mass market, the next wave of electric vehicle owners,” she says.
Rod Bell owns the Central Point Chevron that is now the first stop on Oregon’s Electric Highway.
“It’s more business. That’s what its all about,” Bell says, when asked why he agreed to let AreoVironment install a charging station here.
What does he think of electric cars?
“You can’t get any distance. You can’t go anywhere with it. Just from here to work is all you’re going to get, at this point. I’m 71 years old and I don’t think that’ll change in my lifetime. “
Bell says maybe his grandkids will be driving electric cars.