An unremarkable structure located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard seems regular to common folk but to those individuals that have been eco-enlightened, it is the future arriving now.
The structure is being engineered by EV4 Oregon. The roof of the twelve-foot tall canopy is covered with solar cells that supply electrical power to two ECOtality Blink Level 2 electric vehicle chargers. The building is still connected to the electrical grid, thus any excess electricity from solar cells can be sold to the local electricity utility.
The installation includes a bunker with batteries to store electricity for distribution when the sun goes down. As more electric cars are bought by the community residents, more structures of similar design can be added to create a covered parking lot for electric vehicles.
“This is the future my friends and it will make a difference,” declared Jeff Cogen, the chairman of the Multnomah County Commission. He added, “Hopefully in twenty years, we can look back and say, ‘I remember when these were introduced.’”
Since the major automakers such as General Motors and Nissan have plug-in vehicles in their showrooms, the need for charging stations such as the one being built in Portland makes the allure of electric cars all the more enticing. The absence of a convenient, as well as safe place, to charge batteries away from their own home makes electric cars a difficult proposition to sell for many.
Now, in the city that proclaims itself as a hub for all things electric, the construction of the charging station may be the key to break the bonds that keep electric cars from dominating the nation’s highways. Now, a consortium of government officials, carmakers, academicians and local utilities are coming together to integrate all forms of electric transportation in the city.
Electric vehicle transportation is a good fit for the city of Portland. The city is compact enough that most of the locations in the city are at twenty miles away, thus within the range of a single battery charge. Three fourths of the residents of the state live along the Interstate 5 between Portland and Eugene. The whole state is also heavily reliant on hydroelectric power, a renewable power source without direct carbon emissions.
The city of Portland also has the highest per-capita ownership of Toyota Prius hybrids in the country. There is also a busy streetcar and light rail network that operates within the city. This is the city where Toyota tested its new plug-in hybrid. Local manufacturers such as Green Lite are creating a plug-in hybrid claiming to run up to 100 miles on a gallon. Another local company, Eaton, an automotive supplier and infrastructure company is planning to build fast chargers in its Wilsonville plant nearby. These are just some of the companies from within and outside of Portland seeking to find a solution to the EV conundrum.