Washington State Pioneers Electric-Car Scenic Tourism Route

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Public Charging Station for electric cars, courtesy Mitsubishi Motors

Public Charging Station for electric cars, courtesy Mitsubishi Motors

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The Pacific Northwest is a remarkably scenic corner of the continental United States. The striking coastal ranges of Washington and Oregon offer dramatic vistas, temperature (if often damp) weather, and dozens of outdoor activities within a few hours' drive.

Now those drives can be done in electric cars, courtesy of the country's first scenic byway and tourism route designed specifically for electric cars.

Washington State and several businesses together plan to install a series of charging stations along U.S. Route 2, starting in Everett (just outside Seattle) and reaching 120 miles over the Cascade Mountains to Wenatchee, in the north central area of the state.

The state and the private EV Project are already building a network of charging stations within Seattle and in the surrounding region of greater Puget Sound. The new route is a linear extension from the urban and suburban concentration through less populated areas, albeit areas that are consistently popular with visitors.

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

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Many businesses along the route are coordinating to install quick chargers, reasoning that the 30 minutes tourists will spend in their establishments are likely to generate revenue many times the cost of the electricity they provide.

And at rates as low as 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity from clean hydroelectric sources, those businesses pay some of the nation's lowest rates for green power.

Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Washington, is one of the businesses planning to install a air of charging stations. More than half a dozen others are expected to participate by the time the charger network is up and running this spring.

Among the participating businesses are auto dealers who sell electric cars, including Town Nissan of Wenatchee. It will let members of the public use its 240-Volt charging station, including drivers with plug-in vehicles other than the 2011 Nissan Leaf battery electric car.

Tom Goodfellow, Town Nissan’s New Car Sales Manager, says EV drivers will just have to come inside the dealership and ask permission to use the publicly accessible charging station.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

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As well as the chargers installed by private businesses, funds from last year's Federal Recovery Act will pay for two or three DC quick-charging stations along the route that will be installed by the State of Washington by the end of the year, perhaps earlier.

Such fast chargers will let a 2011 Leaf--or, for that matter, a 2012 Ford Focus Electric and other battery vehicles--to recharge to 80 percent capacity in roughly half an hour.

Two or three such charges would permit a Leaf to make it all the way over the mountains, depending (of course) on driving style, weather conditions, and a few other factors.

The Route 2 journey is known nationwide for its beautiful scenery, with the stretch from Everett to Wenatchee renamed the Stevens Pass Greenway.and designated a National Scenic Byway.

More than 3 million travelers a year pass along the route, where fishing, winter sports, camping, hiking, rafting and kayaking, hunting, and winery tours proliferate.

If you're tempted by the prospect of an emissions-free trip through scenic Washington State, the region helpfully maintains a website to let you sort through these diverse activities.

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Comments (4)
  1. " fast chargers will let a 2011 Leaf--or, for that matter, a 2012 Ford Focus Electric and other battery vehicles--to recharge to 80 percent capacity in roughly half an hour."
    Looking around on the web, I don't see any evidence of the Ford Focus EV allowing DC fast charging, just 6KW charging. Without DC fast charging, I question the value of these charging stations.
    More over, the Leaf is apparently only available with DC fast charging on the SL trim package as a $700 option. Wonder how many people will know to check that box.
    John C. Briggs

  2. @John: Good point. Thus far, Ford has not said anything about "quick charging" for the Focus Electric. (And indeed it's also unclear whether the ChaDeMo standard or a potentially conflicting SAE J-1772 upgrade will end up as the North American quick-charge standard.) Clearly more to come on this front, and we'll report on it as it happens. :)

  3. @John V.,
    Thanks for the feedback. I remain conflicted about public charging. The DC fast charging seems extremely valuable at highway rest-stops compared to the level 2 chargers that won't add much to your SOC. Unless you like hanging out at highway rest-stops (but that is another discussion).
    On the other hand, DC fast charging is clearly not being adopted in the same way that J1772 has been adopted. That makes it challenging for both the auto manufacturers and people trying to deploy fast charging infrastructure. When you add to the mix that DC fast charging shortens battery life, the whole method is in doubt.
    All this leaves me back where I started, charging a home and taking the Prius for long trips.
    Personally, I am more excited about the Ford Focus EV than the LEAF.
    John C. Briggs

  4. What's the info on the impact of fast charging? I've seen reports that twice-daily fast-charging would decrease the battery capacity by an extra 10% over 7-10 years. That doesn't seem like a big deal at all.
    This was reported for the Nissan Leaf; not sure how it applies to other EVs.

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