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Re-elect Cindy Carter Grant County Commissioner

A call for local electric car chargers

Heralding the future, they'd be good for tourism now, advocates say

 

A electric vehicle charger at Suncadia, an upscale resort outside Cle Elum, Wash.

Grand Coulee, a pioneer of green energy because of the dam, may take another step towards a green future by installing an electric vehicle charger, which is also being advocated as a tourism booster.

Marlene Oddie, owner of KISSed Quilts in Grand Coulee, is interested in installing an electric vehicle (EV) charging port near her business. Oddie said the process takes a lot of time to do right, but once installed would then put the Grand Coulee Dam area on the map for tourists with electric cars.

Electric vehicle drivers, like electric cars themselves, are a unique breed of animal, able to travel only as far as their car is able to on a single charge before needing to plug in and recharge.

Currently the closest EV charging stations are in Coulee City and Bridgeport, although many EVs have adapters available to use NEMA 14-50 plugs, such as those available at local RV parks.

Oddie personally drives a BMW i3 fitted with a "range extender," an electric car she says has a range of about 120 miles in the winter, and 150 miles the rest of the year.

"If you are a local driver, then you stay in town all week," Oddie said. "You can have a second car that can go anywhere, but (the electric car) is the best car for commuting here."

A comparison found on http://www.fleetcarma.com shows that 2017 models of electric cars range anywhere from 63 to 360 miles on a single charge, and everywhere in between.

The Tesla Roadster 2, slated for release in 2020, boasts a range of 620 miles, enough to travel to Seattle and back from Grand Coulee on a single charge, signalling that longer ranges are in the near future of electric cars. Combined with the consistently dropping prices in electric battery costs, EVs are projected to become the norm in the coming years, said two advocates who presented to the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce last week.

Jack Anderson and Randy Brooks, from Plug-In North Central Washington, told chamber member at a luncheon Thursday about the outlook on the future of electric vehicles, and on the logistics and the economic benefits of having an EV charging station in the community.

The non-profit, all-volunteer organization operates under the umbrella of the North Central Washington Economic Development District. One of their primary goals is to increase tourism in the area from western Washington and Spokane. An estimated 25,000 people drive electric cars in Washington state.

"The light show at the dam is one of the things we get inquiries on our website about," Anderson said. "EV drivers ask, 'How do I get there?'"

Anderson explained that, with a charging station in town, while EV driver-tourists wait the one to two hours for a car to charge, they would have time to spend their money at local restaurants and shops, which would help the local economy.

Anderson emphasized that it is a community effort to accommodate EV drivers for the benefit of the local economy.

"Don't just look at the charging, look at the economic impact available from providing charging," he said. "What other things would you do in order to entertain people while they are charging? What they're really interested in is walking around, learning about the history, finding something to eat. How would a person charging come down to the dam?"

Brooks predicted that as EV sales increase, technology advances, and the need to reduce pollution increases the world is "well on the path of adoption."

"Some manufacturers in Germany and Norway are saying by 2020 or 2025 or 2030 they aren't even going to allow production or sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines," Brooks said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 18 that "PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that a shift toward electric vehicles is inevitable, forecasting that 'between 2025 and 2030, the cost of battery electric vehicles will fall below the cost of combustion engines.'"

Volvo announced earlier this year that they plan to stop making gas-only vehicles by 2019. General Motors has made similar statements toward committing to electric vehicles.

Plug-In NCW also advocates for the use of electric farm equipment, such as tractors, as well as semi-trucks.

Another electric vehicle charging station is at Banks Lake Brew in Coulee City

The Tesla company is releasing a semi-truck that can go from 0-60 mph in 15 seconds with a full 80,000-pound load, blowing conventional semi-trucks out of the water, and with a 500-mile range that can accommodate most delivery routes. Eighty percent of semi-truck routes are 250 miles or less, according to Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk.

These trends point toward an increasingly EV future.

Those wanting more information or are interested in helping bring a charging station to Grand Coulee can go to http://www.pluginncw.com or contact Marlene Oddie at KISSed Quilts or by calling 509-386-5715.

Jack Anderson, of Plug-In North Central Washington, talks with the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce last week at Siam Palace, explaining the economic benefits for a community when they provide electric vehicle charging to tourists, as well as the status of electric vehicles today, and what the future looks like. - Jacob Wagner photo

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