Portland Takes Step Towards Green Revolution


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.

Walgreen’s Enters Electric Vehicle Services

Electric Car
Electric Car

In furtherance of its claim as the country’s biggest drugstore chain, Walgreen’s recently announced a new service to further its service aim for its customers. The company is now entering the electric vehicle services market by becoming the biggest host for public charging of electric vehicles by the end of 2011.

The stores would make available for its customers about 800 chargers for the public. The expansion stems from the fact that Walgreen stores are in high-density areas and is in consonance with the company’s environment preservation goals. According to the company’s Director of Energy and Sustainability, Menno Enters, “We got a great customer response from the first stations hosted, so for us this is a great fit. A national rollout seemed like the right thing to do.”

The company is already expanding into stores in Houston, the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in Chicago. The company is signing partnerships with 350Green, an infrastructure provider to perform the charger installations. The first charging stations would be set-up in the New York metropolitan area and 350Green would be installing a total of 425 charging stations. Other partners would be the Car Charging Group and NRG Energy.

The charging stations, according to Tim Mason, President and Co-Founder of 350Green, would have 240-volt chargers to be owned by 350Green. The chargers can be used for $3 to $4 for an hour and a half connection, plus the cost of electricity used in the charging.

The Walgreen plan for New York would have sixty stations, ten of which would be 480-volt direct current fast chargers. This is in line with the Walgreen grab and go customer market. The idea would be for clients to stop by the store on the way home from work and plug in to these chargers while they shop.

This move by Walgreen is just one of the many companies assisting the current thrust to make electric vehicles go mainstream. According to a recent Clean Fleet Report by Accenture, the forecast is that by 2015, there would be 1.5 million electric vehicles and this would increase to ten million electric vehicles by 2020.