Yachats Gets Plugged In
Yachats is now part of the West Coast Electric Highway, a chain of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations which will eventually connect Oregon highways throughout the state.
The Yachats EV station was installed by AeroVironment in a spot donated by the City of Yachats. It is on the west side of Highway 101 between the Yachats Commons and Bank of the West. The station includes both a Level 2 slow charger (several hours) and a TIGER II fast charger (less than a half hour). It looks a bit like a regular gasoline pump with a hose that connects to the car, but instead of pumping imported gas, the EV owner charges up an electric car which will power it from 80 to 100 miles, depending on road conditions, traffic, speed, etc. Unlike a gas powered car, the EV “benefits” from stop-and-go traffic since “regenerative braking” charges up the battery.
Yachats is part of a system of charging stations funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and grants from the Federal government. The first ten were installed along I-5 south of Salem under the Federal Recovery Act. Another 33 sites are being installed from Coos Bay to Astoria along the Oregon Coast, eastward up the Columbia Gorge to The Dalles, and over the Cascades into Central Oregon. The goal is to give potential electric vehicle owners confidence that they will be able to re-charge all over the state. Oregon hopes to have 30,000 EVs on the road by 2015, assuming that production of cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-Car as well as the hybrid Chevy Volt can keep up with demand.
Level 2 chargers are located at what is called “opportunistic locations”—places drivers already go such as shopping malls, theaters, and restaurants. Businesses install them to attract customers who shop during the three to four hours while their batteries are charged. The Tiger II installations require about 20 minutes to charge, and are suitable for highway locations. Of course, many EV owners have a charging station in their garage.
The EV charging stations are identical across the state. There is both a Level 2 charger and a DC “fast” charger. For a limited time, there is no fee for using the AeroVironment recharging stations. When the pricing structure is eventually determined, the cost will be about $2 to $3 per charge per vehicle. Drivers will most likely pay a subscription fee, similar to cell phone payments. Meanwhile, the state is still trying to figure out how EV drivers will pay their fair share of taxes to maintain, upgrade and expand highways, currently paid for through taxes on gasoline.
While the station didn’t cost the City of Yachats any money, there will be a lot of benefits. Encouraging use of alternative energy is, of course, a benefit in itself, helping to create a sustainable transportation system by reducing the state’s reliance on imported petroleum and by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The charging station is good news for local residents who want to buy an electric car. It is also an attraction for tourists, who can charge up while enjoying a cup of coffee or a sandwich in one of Yachats’ many cafes, take a walk through the wetlands park behind the Commons, or give the kids a break in the playground. The city will get 5% of the charging fees from its station. ODOT is working with the state’s marketing department, Travel Oregon, to develop specific trip routes based on EV use which will encourage people to visit coastal communities like Yachats. EV drivers will be secure in knowing there is plenty of power available to return home or just keep going along the Electric Highway.