Ashland hopes for car charging stations

The city could get new hybrid vehicles and four electric vehicle recharging stations if the state is successful in winning federal stimulus money.

The state government has applied for $15 million to help pay for vehicles that use electricity for some or all of their propulsion, and to build a network of recharging stations along Interstate 5 and Interstate 84.

The federal American Renewal and Reinvestment Act includes $300 million for alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle projects, according to information from the state about its application for funding.

If the state wins funding, it will distribute money to almost 80 partners, including cities such as Ashland, counties, universities and community colleges, transit agencies, electric utilities and businesses that range from car dealers to grocery stores.

Some of the partners want vehicles, some have committed to building recharging stations and others hope for both, said Oregon Business Development Department Clean Tech Industry Strategist Mark Brady.

The state could help fund 1,250 recharging stations and about 800 vehicles with $15 million, he said.

Each of the four recharging stations Ashland wants would cost about $16,000. The city would be responsible for paying half of the costs, for a total of about $32,000, city of Ashland Electric Department Director Dick Wanderscheid said.

Two would be built in the next fiscal year, with two more the following year. City officials haven't determined where they would go, he said.

Wanderscheid said purely electric vehicles are still rare, so in the beginning he suspects the recharging stations would be used mainly by owners of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

According to the pro-hybrid group California Cars Initiative, driving for 30 miles using electricity would cost 81 cents, while a traditional car driving that distance would burn a gallon of gas at three times that cost.

The 81 cent figure is based on an average American electricity rate of nine cents per kilowatt hour.

Rates in Ashland are even cheaper at 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour, Wanderscheid said.

"It's a lot cheaper to run on electricity than gas," he said.

The city of Ashland is also hoping to win money for a few hybrid vehicles for the city government fleet, along with a hybrid bucket truck that electric department workers would use to reach power lines.

Ashland Maintenance and Safety Supervisor Mike Morrison, Jr. said the city needs to replace a bucket truck. A standard bucket truck would cost about $200,000, while a hybrid version would cost $260,000.

Morrison, Jr. said he's not sure yet whether the federal funding would cover the extra cost of going to a hybrid model, or half the cost of the entire hybrid bucket truck.

State officials could learn as early as this month if they were successful in winning millions of dollars to help Oregon use cleaner vehicles, Brady said.

If funded, the Oregon Electric Vehicle and Electric Vehicle Charging Network Project would decrease reliance on foreign oil, reduce emissions and lay the groundwork for widespread electric vehicle use, according to state officials.

The state would work with unions to develop programs to train electricians on how to install and maintain vehicle recharging stations.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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