We can get a charge out of this

I've been thinking about getting an electric vehicle and understand that a network of charging stations is supposed to be set up along I-5. Do you know how soon that's supposed to happen?

— Scott T., Medford

Of course we know, Scott. We are, after all, plugged in to all kinds of information. ("Plugged in," get it? OK, do we have to draw you a picture?)

Interstate 5 has been dubbed the "Green Highway" and there are plans to have charging stations on the freeway from Mexico to the Canadian border.

The initial installations are scheduled to be right here, in sunny Southern Oregon. Eight "fast charging" stations will be available between Eugene and Ashland, with construction expected to start this summer and be done by year's end.

The stations will be spaced about 30 miles apart to ensure that electric vehicle drivers won't get that powerless feeling — a typical charge lasts about 100 miles. The charging sites will be at gas stations or other "traveler-friendly" locations near the highway. California-based AeroVironment was selected by the Oregon Department of Transportation to install the chargers under a $700,000 federal stimulus grant.

The chargers are called Level 3 fast chargers, use 480 volts and can boost a 45-kilowatt battery — such as the one in the fully electric Nissan Leaf — from 20 percent charge to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. (OK, so "fast charging" all depends upon your definition of "fast.") The charging stations use a universal connection on a cable that plugs into the car.

Other parts of Oregon also will see charging stations soon. One project, called the EV Project, is scheduled to install 14,000 charging stations in six states (including Oregon, Washington and California) and the District of Columbia. Next year, electric car fast chargers should be operating along the Oregon Coast, in Central Oregon and along Interstate 84.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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