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Want to Get Outta Dodge with an EV? Start in Seattle, Turn East.

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday January 14th, 2011 | 0 Comments

photo: kikiduck

The Obama Administration wants to see one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Reaching that goal will take more than a commitment from carmakers. They could pump out five million EVs, but that wouldn’t solve one major hurdle to adoption, the dreaded “range anxiety” that drivers feel over full electric vehicles. Take the first EV out of the gate, Nissan’s Leaf. It will get 100 miles on a single charge. That’s great for a daily commute, but what about weekend trips to the country? Enter, anxiety.

There are many large efforts afoot to build out the much-needed charging infrastructure to support EVs and address that consumer anxiety. And as with any disruptive technology, there’s no clear, all-hands-on-board solution. It will take lots of incremental efforts. But for EVs to really penetrate the auto market, many of those small efforts will need to take place outside major cities, and on or near remote roads.

One such road is the Stevens Pass Greenway, a 130-mile section of US Highway 2, which traverses Washington’s Cascade Mountains (and, as it happens, holds a special place in my heart, as I spent most of my 20s living and working at Stevens Pass Ski Area). Washington’s departments of commerce and transportation announced on Wednesday that this stretch of road will be the first National Scenic Byway to be outfitted with fast-charging EV stations.

The chargers, made by Coulomb, will be installed Stevens Pass Ski Area, as well as the Sleeping Lady Resort (an awesome resort, by the way, and a B Corp, to boot) in Leavenworth, the Icicle Ridge Winery, and two sites in Wenatchee, at the eastern terminus of the byway.

This isn’t a major project. It’s just a handful of charging stations along one stretch of (epically beautiful) mountain highway. But it’s indicative of forward thinking among the groups that advanced this effort, which include the Port of Chelan County. (The eastern half of the Stevens Pass Greenway extends through Chelan County.)  The Port worked with the Advanced Vehicle Innovations Consortium, a plug-in vehicle testing and research center based in Wenatchee and funded by the Port to advance EVs. North-Central Washington might not seem like a hot spot for EVs, but it has some of the cheapest and cleanest electric energy generation in the country, thanks to numerous dams along the Columbia River.

In connecting Seattle with North-Central Washington, this project will make owning–or, for tourists, renting–an EV a more realistic endeavor for that little slice of the country. Now, if carmakers could somehow design an all-wheel-drive EV…

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