West Coast Electric Highway opened last week in Washington State

Article by Anita Panait, on June 6, 2012

Through the collaboration of the Washington State Department of Transportation and electric charging station builder AeroVironment, the West Coast Electric Highway is now online! The partnership opened seven electric charging stations along Interstate 5 in Blaine, Bellingham, Burlington, Tumwater, Centralia, Ridgefield and Vancouver; and three more bases along the U.S. Route 2 in Sultan, Skykomish and Leavenworth.

Drivers of electric vehicles could now charge in these stations should they need to. The Washington State Department of Transportation said that around 70 percent of its population resides within 16 miles of I-5, making it ideal for building electric charging stations. The department said that while several stations opened in Oregon in March, the goal is to build charging bases every 25 to 60 miles along I-5 for 1,300 miles from the Canadian border through California.

According to Frank Wong, AeroVironment’s Marketing Manager, a public charging infrastructure will extend the reach of the highway as it continues its “evolutionary process.” The charging station project received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy channelled through the federal stimulus funds. Wong remarked that people in the future will consider having electric vehicles as their primary car.

Eight of the 10 charging sites -- excluding Blaine and Vancouver -- feature both DC fast and Level 2 chargers. The Blaine and Vancouver bases only have Level 2 units. DC fast chargers could recharge nearly exhausted batteries in just 30 minutes while Level 2 chargers take a few hours.

Nissan also played a role in the planning stages of the West Coast Electric Highway. According to Mark Perry, Nissan America’s director of product planning, the company played a “consulting role,” which includes identifying the areas where owners of the electric Nissan Leaf reside. According to Perry, there are around 12,000 Leafs that travel across the United States. [source: Autonews]

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