Project will bring car-charging stations to region in 2011

The state will build electric-car charging stations at freeway interchanges in Southern Oregon next year as part of a project to construct 1,100 of the stations in western Oregon.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski will be in Medford Wednesday to announce the $230 million project, a partnership with ECOtality, a San Francisco firm.

ECOtality will install its Blink Level 3 chargers in sites in major Willamette Valley cities and at freeway interchanges of Southern Oregon, allowing drivers to charge cars in 20 minutes for about $1.40, allowing drivers to travel about 100 miles, said Eric Anderson of Pacific Power and Light in Portland.

The governor on Wednesday will announce a $700,000 grant of stimulus money from the federal Department of Energy. The grant will allow eight fast-charging stations to be installed next year at I-5 interchanges of south Ashland, Crater Lake Avenue in Medford and in Grants Pass, Wolf Creek, Canyonville, Rice Hill, Roseburg and Cottage Grove, said Art James of the state's Green Highways Program.

Charging cars away from home has for 30 years been the main obstacle to the growth of the electric vehicle, said Avista's Steve Vincent, a board member of the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition.

The network maps and charging equipment will be showcased at an event at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Medford City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St. Kulongoski and ECOtality officials will be on hand.

Under a complex system, charging stations will deliver varying levels of power to cars at varying speeds in alternating or direct current, says James. Chargers at home can charge cars in 12 to 14 hours. Higher power metro-area chargers charge in four to six hours, and freeway interchange chargers will "force feed" current in a 15-minute charge.

Eventually the project will enable a 15,000-charger electric highway from Canada to Mexico, according to ECOtality's website. A wide array of state agencies, utilities, cities and universities are partners in the program.

— John Darling, for the Mail Tribune

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