Fast Company

Within Six Months, I-5 Will Be The Electric Interstate

A new contract will bringing fast-charging access points to Northwest highways, enabling a wave of electric cars to make long-range journeys, with just quick stops for charging along the way.

highway

Live near I-5, and have a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt? Your luck is in: Within six months all 276 miles of the interstate between Canada and Oregon will be peppered with electric charging points for your car of the future, in a project that'll turn it into the electric interstate of the 21st Century. A small section of U.S. 2 in Washington State will also get the same treatment.

AeroVironment is the firm picked to do the wiring-up of I-5 and U.S. 2, which is going to cost only $1 million. For that price, the firm--which recently was the won Underwriter's Labs certification for its fast-chargers--will "manufacture, supply, install and operate a network of nine fast-charging stations." That translates to about one station every 40-to-60 miles (comfortably within the Nissan Leaf's 70 mile maximum "highway" range) along the interstate, and on U.S. 2 "between Everett and Leavenworth." They'll be placed at locations like shopping malls, gas stations, and rest stops.

You'll simply roll up and pay to use the fast-charge stations to get your EV up from zero to full in "less than 30 minutes," and if you've got more time and fancy spending less cash there's also a Level 2 "medium speed" station at each charge point, which takes four to six hours. Fast charge points will be operational by November 30.

AeroVironment is also one of the "leading hydroelectric power producers in the United States" according to a spokesman quoted in the press release, meaning that some of the juice you'll be pumping into your car will be from a more sustainable source.

We can also understand the significance of electrifying the interstate in the Pacific Northwest: With its cluster of super-high-tech global firms, it could definitely serve as something of a national example. Hopefully, more highways will be coming soon.

[Image: Flickr user beverlyislike]

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3 Comments

  • Sarah Conner

    Really a very silly idea.Hmm...If I happen to have bought a L3 capable car, then I can turn what is normally 4 hour road trip into a 9 hour trip that includes stopping to charge at all 9 stations, or longer if someone else happens to be using that charging station I need.Or if I have a L2 car, then it will simply become a 40 hour trip instead of 4.Yea, great idea.Oh, and ONLY $1 million dollars! Dr. Evil would be proud. So if you're wondering what it costs to install these commercial chargers? Well, in this case it's more than $110,000 each! If you pay $3-4 for a charge, and maybe each of these chargers gets used at most on average 2 times a day (no way by the way), then after you deduct the cost of electricity and maintenance, you MIGHT be looking at $.50 of gross profit from every charge. So:$.50 X 2 time/day X 365 days/year = $365/year gross profit against a $110,000 investment...WAIT FOR IT...YES! A 301 year break even point!Wow. Great business idea.

  • stephen

    Actually, with the average American driving 29 miles a day these stations will work even if you don't get more than 70 miles out of a full charge. Basically these stations will be able to serve people while on trips to the grocery store, hardware store or school. THe stations won't be where they get a full charge but to get a quick one while they get groceries. 70% of charging will be taking place at peoples residences. Cost is really cheap, around $3 for a full charge some stations actually provide it for free! Battery switch stations require lots more overhead to run (staff, more space to store batteries) and thus higher costs to the drivers. As demand goes up for EVs as infrastructure is put in place, innovation will push battery capacity farther, expanding range of these vehicles and limiting our need for fossil fuels.

  • Rand Levin

    So I can only drive about 70 miles and then I have to wait 30 minutes for a "fast charge?" This is not going to work. How many "pumps" per station? How much will it cost for a charge? 

    I believe battery switch stations are the way to go. In 2 minutes, your empty battery is swapped for a full one and you're on your way.