West Coast Electric Highway Reaches To Canada

The possibility of an uninterrupted electric ride along the entire U.S. West Coast came closer recently with the opening of more charging stations in Washington state.

The 10 new public charging stations mean that electric vehicle (EV) drivers can now travel emission-free from Seattle to the Canadian border.


image via AeroVironment

The batch of new stations — seven along Interstate 5 and three along U.S. Route 2 in northern Washington — were unveiled by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and charging station manufacturer AeroVironment.

If fully realized, the “West Coast Electric Highway,” as it has been named, will mean an EV transportation corridor from Canada to Mexico, connecting California, Oregon and Washington along I-5 — a distance of nearly 1,400 miles.

The highway concept, which was inaugurated in Oregon earlier this year, responds to the fact that EVs only have limited drive range and thus need to be constantly recharged.

But improvements in battery technology means some new EVs can go nearly as far as a conventional car on a tank of fuel. For example, Tesla Motors Model S, expected to hit the market this summer, comes with an optional 85-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and claims a range of 300 miles.

Where EVs really lag behind from their gas-powered competitors is in the refueling time, however. Charging electric cars can take hours depending on the type of station being used. In order to help combat these limitations, the Oregon Department of Transportation spaced out two types of charging stations (one regular, one DC “fast” charger) at roughly 25-mile intervals along I-5 in Southern Oregon.

The new charging stations in Washington have also been designed with this problem in mind.

Eight of the 10 new stations feature AeroVironment’s  “DC fast chargers,” which the company says is a state-of-the-art system that can deliver a full charge for a nearly depleted battery in under half an hour.

In addition to this all the locations feature the longer charge time Level 2 chargers.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

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