ELECTRIC HIGHWAYS PROJECT FAQS

How did the "Electric Highway" get its start? Show Answer

The Washington State Department of Transportation, through its Transportation Partnerships Office, commissioned an Alternative Fuels Corridor study to see how the state could incentivize station operators to sell alternative fuels along the I-5 corridor in Washington. The study examined the economics of the retail alternative fuel industry and evaluated ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, and hydrogen. Electric vehicle charging was deemed an economically viable option because electricity is inexpensive and the capital requirement is relatively low. WSDOT originally formed partnerships with utilities and retailers to pursue electric vehicle charging on state property such as rest areas along the I-5 corridor. As the department explored electrification options, it made more sense to make DC fast chargers available at retail locations to support local businesses and give drivers something to do while waiting for their cars to charge. Instead of contributing state right-of way, WSDOT secured federal funding through the State Energy Program to get the “Electric Highway” started. WSDOT coordinated with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Innovative Partnerships Office to develop equipment standards, signage and branding so EV drivers would have a consistent driving experience along the west coast.


Why does the Pacific Northwest embrace electric vehicles? Show Answer

The Pacific Northwest has among the cleanest and least expensive supply of electricity in the nation. Public Utility Districts in Washington get nearly 82% of their energy from hydropower, which is reliable, renewable and produces almost zero greenhouse gas emissions. When cars are powered by electricity, there are no tailpipe emissions, so the only source of pollutants is in the production of the power. The Pacific Northwest leads in clean power and Washington is committed to being a leader in the transition to a clean energy economy.

The electric vehicle industry recognizes Washington's comparative advantage for both electricity and early adoption rates for green technology. BMW announced it is locating a carbon fiber manufacturing plant, in Moses Lake, Washington. Now other companies are looking to co-locate near BMW and the comparatively inexpensive, clean Pacific Northwest hydropower.


How is the state's electric highway funded? Show Answer

This project is structured as a public-private partnership whereby the costs are shared by the public sector, the private sector, and the users. Much of the funding is provided by the federal government as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In Washington, initial funding was provided by the US Department of Energy through the State Energy Program (SEP). The Washington State Department of Commerce leads the program for the State of Washington. Commerce invests this federal SEP funding in projects that achieve energy and environmental policy goals. Commerce is invested $1.6 million of SEP grants as seed funding and WSDOT developed the partnerships to implement the Electric Highways network with private businesses, other agencies and electric vehicle drivers. In Oregon, the state’s charging network is funded with a combination of U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Transportation grants.


How many miles between charging stations? Show Answer

The stations along Interstate 5 are spaced in intervals of 25 to 50 miles, depending on several factors such as road characteristics, topography, availability of suitable host sites, etc. The network provides enough charging stations for electric vehicle drivers to get from the Canadian border through Washington and Oregon to the California state line.

The charging stations developed under this initiative will be primarily located along Interstate 5 in Washington, outside the Seattle and Portland Metro areas. Other fast chargers are located along major roadways radiating out from I-5.

The charging stations are primarily located within a mile of the highway exits. Locations were selected based upon partnering with qualified businesses to host the stations, and proximity to adequate electric power supply.


Why aren’t the fast chargers installed in the more densely populated areas like Seattle? Show Answer

This project is intended to make longer-distance (i.e., over 40 miles) travel by electric vehicles possible by providing charging stations between major cities, outside of The EV Project boundaries. Electric vehicle charging in the urban and suburban areas will be provided primarily through home-based charging, supplemented by charge stations at workplaces, and other publicly-accessible locations such as parking lots. The main role of the state on the development of a charging infrastructure network is to help enable interregional and interstate travel, leaving to local jurisdictions the lead on providing charge stations in their own cities and towns.


Is the charging equipment compatible with my electric vehicle? Show Answer

As with all new technology, it takes time to gain consensus and adopt industry standards. The Level 2 charging equipment is compatible with most electric cars including the Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt. Major automakers have agreed on a standard J-1772 plug for Level 2 charging, the most common type of charging in homes and public places. Some vehicles such as the Tesla have proprietary charging equipment that is not compatible at this time. The DC fast chargers in the Electric Highway network have CHAdeMO connectors that charge vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiEV. The goal for the Electric Highway Project is to install compatible and interoperable charging equipment.


What is the fee for charging electric vehicles? Show Answer

EV drivers will spend much less than drivers of conventional vehicles. When charging at home, they will typically pay the same price per kilowatt-hour that they pay for the use of any other appliance. The price at a publicly-accessible charging station has yet to be established. Our charging station partners plan to offer both charging subscriptions for EV charging (similar to a cell phone plan), or drive up, pay-per-use via credit card.


How much electricity is used for charging electric cars? Show Answer

For a full charge, the amount of electricity needed will depend on the size of the battery (i.e. the amount of energy that the battery can store) and the efficiency of the charge. Typically, electric vehicle batteries always keep a minimum state of charge (e.g. 10%), which helps prolong the life of the battery. As an example, fully charging a 25 kWh battery will then consume less than 23 kWh of electricity, plus a small amount to cover any losses during the charging.

As a point of reference, the cost of electricity to completely charge a new Nissan LEAF all-electric vehicle (with a 24 kW battery) is about $1.92 (assuming Puget Sound Energy's rates are 8 cents per kW hour).


How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle? Show Answer

The time it takes to charge your car will depend on the amount of charge that you need and the type of charging equipment that you use. These stations will support both level 2 and Direct Current (DC) fast charging technology.

Level 2 "medium speed charging" takes 4 to 8 hours to fully recharge the battery, depending on the battery size and how depleted it is. Level 2 is a 220-volt charger typically installed in home garages and at public locations. It's unlikely that most drivers will wait until their batteries are nearly drained before deciding to charge with Level 2. More likely, drivers will use public Level 2 chargers to "top off" batteriess.

DC Fast Charging takes about 20-30 minutes to reach an 80% charge, again depending upon the size of the battery and how depleted it is. DC charge systems are typically installed in commercial areas and high-traffic areas along the highway for drivers traveling longer distances.


How do I find EV charging stations? Show Answer

There are many resources available to help you find electric vehicle charging stations. You can see a map and photos of Washington’s West Coast Electric Highway network. Or plan a trip using these links to map locators and mobile apps such as Plugshare. Once you’re on the road, use the on-board charging station software such as car-wings. Look for the blue and white EV charging station symbol along major roadways.



West Coast Electric Highway