Work begins on West Coast Electric Highway

The future of long-distance, zero-emissions travel began in Bellingham Wednesday, where construction is starting on the state’s first public charging station that can recharge electric vehicles in 30 minutes.

It’s the first sign of a border-to-border network of public electric-vehicle charging stations and the first stop on Washington’s segment of the West Coast Electric Highway along 276 miles of Interstate 5 between the state’s borders with Oregon and Canada.

The Washington State Department of Transportation selected Bellingham as the premiere location to break ground on the state’s segment of the Electric Highway because the city’s commitment to a sustainable future goes hand-in-hand with the WSDOT’s leading role in developing new transportation infrastructure necessary for drivers to make the switch to electricity.

On Wednesday, WSDOT officials joined Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike and local business leaders to celebrate a ground-breaking for the state’s first DC fast charger.

“The transition from gasoline and foreign oil to alternative fuels, such as electricity, for transportation requires a huge first step — infrastructure,” said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond in recognition of Wednesday’s groundbreaking of the West Coast Electric Highway’s first DC fast charge station at Sehome Village Shopping Center in Bellingham. “Businesses like Sehome Village and its merchants, such as Starbucks and REI, are pioneering the way to energy independence by taking that first step. And they are strengthening Washington’s role in the West Coast Electric Highway. In a few years it will be possible for people to drive their electric vehicles from Canada to Mexico.”

The Electric Highway is part of the West Coast Green Highway, a three-state initiative to promote the use of cleaner fuels along the 1,350 miles of I-5 from British Columbia to Baja, Californian in Mexico.

Mayor Pike said he was eager to join WSDOT and charging station manufacturer and operator AeroVironment Inc. to open the first public DC Fast-charging station in the state. The technology provides a 30-minute recharge for all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev. The charging station will also include a Level 2 “medium-speed” charging pedestal for other plug-in vehicles, such as the Ford Focus and Chevy Volt.

With federal Recovery Act funding through the Washington State Department of Commerce State Energy Program and local funding, the state is developing public/private ventures to support the nation’s first cross-state infrastructure for electric vehicles, paving the way for a cleaner, more sustainable way of travel.

“The city’s commitment to sustainability makes Bellingham a prime location to lead the charge to provide electric vehicle infrastructure,” Pike said. “We’re proud to pave the way for a new generation of zero-emission personal transportation.”

Earlier this year, WSDOT selected AeroVironment to provide the DC fast-charging equipment and services at retail locations such as shopping malls, fueling stations and restaurants with easy access to the state’s highways. AeroVironment is installing six stations along I-5, three stations along U.S. Highway 2 and potentially two more along Interstate 90. Oregon also chose AeroVironment to extend the West Coast Green Highway charging network to the state’s California border.

“Today, in Bellingham, electrifying I-5 goes from being a vision about a cleaner future for Washington to the start of a new reality,” said Kristen Helsel, AeroVironment vice president of EV solutions. “Together with the Washington State Department of Transportation and cities like Bellingham, we’re powering the electric-vehicle charging network in Washington, and we look forward to quickly rolling out and lighting up the remainder of the Electric Highway in the months to come.”

West Coast Green Highway —

West Coast Green Highway (Electric Highways) —

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For related Tacoma Daily Index coverage, click on the following links:

Pierce County installs 2 electric vehicle charging stations for public use (12/28/11) —

Year In Review: LEED silver Wells Fargo Plaza (12/22/11) —

LEED silver designation for Tacoma’s Wells Fargo Plaza (10/06/11) —

City of Tacoma installs 4 charging stations downtown for electric fleet vehicles (09/20/11) —

WSDOT moves closer to electric highway system, selects contractor for 9 charging stations (07/13/11) —

Electric vehicle charging station grant funds available for Tacoma business owners (03/16/11) —

Electric vehicles will join City Hall’s fleet (02/02/11) —

City Council to vote on $2.6M electric fleet vehicle contract (01/21/11) —

A ‘green highway’ through Tacoma? (12/04/10) —

I-5 ‘electric highway’ receives federal funding boost (06/29/10) —