WSDOT moves closer to electric highway system, selects contractor for 9 charging stations

Within six months, drivers will be recharging their electric vehicles, like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, along Washington’s Electric Highways.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) selected Monrovia, Calif.-based AeroVironment to transform Interstate 5 and US 2 into the premier interstates of the 21st century, serving the latest generation of electric cars. AeroVironment rose to the top during a competitive contract award process in which six companies submitted proposals to electrify I-5 and US 2 on a budget of $1 million. AeroVironment will manufacture, supply, install and operate a network of nine fast-charging stations for electric vehicles. Stations will be located every 40 to 60 miles along stretches of I-5 between the Canadian border and Everett and between Olympia and the Oregon border, as well as along US 2 between Everett and Leavenworth.

“A network of charging stations linking Washington to Oregon and Canada will make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers and businesses, and transportation better for the environment,” said Paula Hammond, Washington secretary of transportation.

The fast-charging stations will be operational by Nov. 30, and will power an electric vehicle from zero to fully charged in less than 30 minutes. Each station also will include a Level 2 “medium-speed” charging station, which will cost less for users and take up to four to six hours for a full charge. The stations will be located at private retail locations such as shopping malls, fueling stations and travel centers with easy access to the highway.

In the area between Everett and Olympia, additional charging stations will be installed through a federal program, The EV Project, administrated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Combined, the two projects will connect Washington drivers along the entire 276 miles of I-5 between Canada and Oregon.

“As the leading hydroelectric power producer in the United States, Washington state is ideally suited to support emissions-free electric vehicles,” said Mike Bissonette, AeroVironment’s senior vice president and general manager of Efficient Energy Systems. “Electrifying I-5 is not just a vision about a cleaner future, it’s about American jobs and building the economy today. We’re working with Washington to turn that vision into reality.”

While AeroVironment helps power the electric-vehicle charging network in Washington, the company will simultaneously electrify I-5 in Oregon through a similar project managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Both states’ projects will complement The EV Project, which will install thousands of home and public electric-vehicle charging stations in six states, including Washington, Oregon and California.

Washington’s electric-highway infrastructure is a key component of a future West Coast Green Highway. When complete, it will extend a seamless network of recharging stations along all 1,350 miles of I-5 from Canada to Mexico, serving more than 2 million electric vehicles that market analysts say will be sold in Washington, Oregon and California in the next decade.

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For related Tacoma Daily Index coverage, read the following:

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) —