Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America plan to build a new charging hub for electric trucks like the one in this artist's rendering on Portland's Swan Island.

Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America plan to build a new charging hub for electric trucks like the one in this artist's rendering on Portland's Swan Island.

Courtesy of Daimler Trucks North America

Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America are building a first-of-its-kind public charging station for electric trucks on Portland’s Swan Island.

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On Tuesday, the companies announced their plans to build what they’re calling “Electric Island” at a site near Daimler’s headquarters in North Portland. It will be designed to host up to nine charging stations for commercial electric vehicles by the spring of 2021.

Daimler is currently test-driving pilot versions of its eCascadia and eM2 electric trucks, which are some of the first electric semis to hit the road. The company plans to start manufacturing electric trucks at its Swan Island plant in 2022.

The electric truck charging hub will serve as a research station for both Daimler and PGE as they sort through logistical challenges of charging massive batteries for light-, medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks, which are still few and far between.

“Having been born and raised in Oregon, I am incredibly proud to help make Swan Island an electric island,” Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America said in a statement. “We are paving the way to a brighter, cleaner carbon-neutral future.”

According to Nate Hill, head of charging infrastructure for Daimler, the EV chargers at the site will be able to deliver more than 1 megawatt of power in the future, making them four times faster than the fastest light-duty commercial vehicle chargers available today. They will start out at about the same power level as existing fast-chargers, delivering 150-200 kilowatts, he said, but with more space for larger vehicles.

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“You know, we’re driving a Class 8 vehicle, and it’s a tractor-trailer combination with a 53-foot trailer,” he said. “It’s really hard to squeeze that thing into a Walmart parking lot and pull up to one of those chargers. ...This is the first site that was designed first for trucks and second for passenger cars.”

The charging hub will be capable of receiving 5 megawatts of power from the grid, Hill said, roughly equivalent to the electricity used in 3,000 residential homes. He said Daimler will be evaluating how reliable the chargers are for companies that will be depending on them in the future.

“Some of these guys run their fleets every day up to 20 hours a day,” he said. “If a charger goes down, that means their vehicle goes down.”

Joe Colett, emerging technologies manager for PGE, said his utility will be studying what impact heavy-duty electric truck charging has on the grid and will be testing vehicle-to-grid technology where truck batteries could store and provide power for the utility.

“We’re going to see vehicles out there with much larger batteries than we see today that need to refill those batteries very quickly, and that will require a lot of power and energy from the grid,” he said. “So, for us, this is a really valuable opportunity to learn what that might look like.”

Hill said initially the vehicles using the new charging station will likely be Daimler’s trucks.

“In Portland, there are very few electric trucks, and as far as I know Daimler owns them all,” he said. “But we also have quite a few customers that were interested in piloting some of our early electric trucks ... and it’s a great way for them to be able to try out an electric truck without having to put up the capital to install their own charging infrastructure early on.”

The two companies are finalizing plans to add renewable energy generation to the site with solar panels connected to battery storage, as well as a building to showcase the technology. They also plan to try using old electric vehicle batteries to store power at the site.

Daimler has paid into PGE’s Green Future Impact renewable energy program to cover the power provided through the new charging stations, so the electricity will be free of greenhouse gas emissions.

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