While dreams of a "Hydrogen Highway" along the West Coast have languished, the states of Washington and Oregon are moving ahead on plans to make Interstate-5 the first "electric highway" in the nation.

Yesterday, a small ground-breaking ceremony took place in the Sehome Village Shopping Center in Bellingham, Washington, for the first of a network of DC fast-charging stations to be located along the West Coast Electric Highway running along I-5 through both states.

Together, Oregon and Washington intend to make it possible for electric-car drivers to recharge their battery packs every 40 to 60 miles at a network of DC fast-charging stations.

Those CHAdeMO charging stations can refill a typical electric-car lithium-ion battery pack to 80 percent of its capacity in less than an hour.

That's not as quick as filling up the gas tank, for sure, but it's enough to allow a Nissan Leaf or 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' driver to cover one or more 60-mile segments with stops in between for a bathroom break, food, and time to check e-mail or make phone calls.

At the groundbreaking, Bellingham mayor Dan Pike, local business leaders, and Washington State Department of Transportation officials posed for a photo on the site where the first AeroVironment DC fast charging station is to be built.

Banner for West Coast Electric Highway in Bellingham, WA; photo: Washington State DoT

Banner for West Coast Electric Highway in Bellingham, WA; photo: Washington State DoT

The station will also offer Level 2 240-Volt charging for electric cars--including the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, and Fisker Karma--that do not offer CHAdeMO fast charging.

AeroVironment is working with state transportation departments in both Washington and Oregon to install chargers up to the California border, in what will be called America's First "Electric Highway". So far, California has lagged in fast-charging installations.

Among other reasons, Washington and Oregon hope to bring electric-car scenic tourism to states that have undeniably attractive natural wonders.

Ultimately, the plan is for a three-state West Coast Green Highway that will stretch along 1,350 miles from British Columbia, Canada, all the way down through California into Mexico.


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