Electric charger stations up soon

The state is a few weeks away from installing an electric car charging station near Ashland's south freeway interchange as part of a plan to "electrify" Southern Oregon's Interstate 5 corridor.

Eight host sites adjacent to I-5 interchanges between Ashland and Cottage Grove will be outfitted with a similar set of the chargers during the next two to three weeks, said Art James, project director for the Oregon Department of Transportation's Innovative Partnership Program. "It's going to be the first long-distance corridor of fast chargers installed in the country," said James. "There are a lot of benefits on a lot of different levels for the state moving away from its reliance on fossils fuels, so there's plenty to be excited about."

The project is a part of the federally funded and Washington state Department of Transportation-controlled West Coast Green Highway initiative, which received a $1.32 million grant to begin arranging the construction of electric car charging stations every 40 to 60 miles along I-5 in Washington and Southern Oregon.

Although Washington's section of the freeway was set to be the first leg of the project completed, the Southern Oregon portion of the plan is running ahead of schedule, said James, and will be finished first. The Washington leg of the project is scheduled to be completed before the end of November, he said.

"These things don't take a long time to install, once you get a location nailed down," said James. "Finding a qualified host site has been the time-killer — the construction is just a matter of a day."

Ashland's set of chargers will be installed at the Texaco gas station at 2371 Ashland St., adjacent to I-5 exit 14. It will offer one Level 2 charger, which takes three to four hours to charge a drained car, and one fast charger, which will take about 20 to 35 minutes to do the same, said Ashley Horvat, Transportation Electrification Project analyst for ODOT.

Drivers will operate the charging stations by themselves, but have the option of round-the-clock assistance from a provider designated at the host site by AeroVironment Inc., which received the bid to construct, operate and maintain the charging stations.

Charging stations will be installed at seven other Southern Oregon locations, including Central Point's Chevron gas station, 1510 East Pine St., at I-5 exit 33. Others include I-5 exit 174 in Cottage Grove, exit 148 in Rice Hill, exit 125 in Roseburg, exit 99 in Canyonville, exit 76 in Wolf Creek and exit 58 in Grants Pass.

ODOT will monitor the use of the charging stations for the next five years, said Horvat, compiling data to be analyzed at the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

After that five years, it will be up to AeroVironment and the host site to determine the outcome of the charging stations, she said.

AeroVironment has not released a price chart for how much charging a vehicle will cost drivers, but stations average about $2 to $3 to charge a car.

"Each site will probably be different, depending on local electric rates," said Horvat, "but it's going to be far less than people are paying at the pump."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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