Oct. 10, 2014

Oregon Leads the Charge for Plug-In Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure

Oregon is coordinating many activities and developing processes to facilitate successful, widespread deployment of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

Oregon's Plug-In Electric Vehicle Evolution

Oregon has supported alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) since 1991, when it established AFV tax credits, and in recent years began focusing on PEVs as part of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts. In 2004, Oregon's strategy for greenhouse gas reduction report showed that motor vehicles accounted for more than one-third of the state's GHG emissions. In 2007, climate change legislation (HB 3543) set GHG emissions targets of 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75% below 1990 levels by 2050. A 2008 climate change report led to forming the Governor's Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group. This group focused on PEVs for several reasons:

  • The need for low- or zero-emission vehicles to meet GHG-reduction targets;
  • Oregon's annual spending of approximately $8 billion on gasoline and diesel, of which 90% of the non-tax dollars leave the state;
  • Oregon's relatively low GHG electricity sources (more than half of the state's electricity comes from hydropower);
  • Oregon's renewable portfolio standard, which requires the state's largest utilities to provide 25% of their retail electricity from new renewable energy sources by 2025;
  • Potential economic opportunities related to PEVs; and
  • Oregon's population of innovators and early adopters of new technologies.

See the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group's 2010 report. In 2009 and 2010, more legislation (HB 2001 and SB 1059) encouraged PEV use, which included creating standards for neighborhood electric vehicles and developing tools for metropolitan planning organizations to estimate GHG reductions.

These legislative and planning efforts translated quickly into action. Work to create a proposal for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds led to partnerships among more than 60 state agencies, local governments, utilities, and private organizations. A Public Utility Commission docket started the investigation into the role of utilities in PEV deployment, including smart grid and rate-structure considerations. Oregon's largest city, Portland, initiated its own activities (see Electric Vehicles: The Portland WayPDF).

In September 2010, Executive Order 10-09 established the Governor's Transportation Electrification Executive Council, a central point for coordinating the state's PEV strategy, development, and deployment.

Success to Date

As of August 2014, over 400 public and private EVSE were located throughout Oregon. In addition to leadership in infrastructure deployment, Oregon's PEV adoption rate was higher than the national average. In 2013, PEVs comprised more than 1% of all new vehicle registrations in the state. Other successful initiatives include:

  • The 2013 state PEV readiness plan, Energizing Oregon, which includes recommendations to accelerate PEV adoption. The governor, Drive Oregon, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) established the Energize Oregon Coalition to implement the plan. Members of the coalition include vehicle and infrastructure manufacturers, utilities, public officials, and environmental organizations.
  • The 2013 Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Programs Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Multi-State ZEV Action Plan, a plan to promote PEVs and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Oregon was one of several states party to the MOU.
  • The West Coast Electric Highway, an extensive network of Level 2 and DC fast charging stations located along Interstate 5 and other major roadways in the Pacific Northwest. In 2014, ODOT completed the Oregon portion of the three-state highway system and the state has the largest share of EVSE in the system.
  • The Oregon Electric Byways initiative, a collaboration between the Oregon Tourism Commission (also known as Travel Oregon), the vehicle manufacturing industry, universities, and public agencies, to promote PEV tourism. Travel Oregon helped develop Oregon Electric Byway itineraries and provided market research to facilitate the placement of EVSE in key areas around the state.
  • Streamlining the permitting and inspection process for EVSE through the State of Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD). The BCD established a single permit for installing ESVE and continues to update the rule to keep pace with changes in technology (see steps to the right).
  • The State of Oregon became the first state in the nation to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy's Workplace Charging Challenge, an initiative to increase the number of U.S. employers offering workplace charging. Drive Oregon also participates in the program as an Ambassador.

Oregon has assembled a large, diverse team to coordinate its EVSE work. The state also provides incentives for PEVs and EVSE. See Oregon Laws and Incentives on the Alternative Fuels Data Center.

Connecting Customers with EVSE Providers
PEV customers may contact automakers, dealers, or their utility for a list of licensed electricians to help with EVSE installation. For example, Nissan's preferred EVSE and installation services provider is AeroVironment. As more vehicle choices enter the Oregon market, the manufacturers of those vehicles likely will partner with EVSE providers to serve their customers.
Assessing a Customer's Site
PEV customers can obtain a home assessment from an electrician in an EVSE provider's preferred-contractor network or any other licensed electrician to determine whether the capacity of their electrical panel is adequate for installation of EVSE.
Getting a Permit
A licensed electrician can use a minor label to install Level 2 EVSE in single-family structures. Minor labels are inexpensive permits for minor electrical installations. Electricians may purchase ten minor installation labels for $140 from the Building Codes Division (BCD) Oregon Label Minor Program. Minor Label permits can be used to install EVSE that do not exceep 40 amps/240 volts, where EVSE is within sight of its electrical panel that has an available branch circuit and is not in a damp location.

While more complex EVSE installations require an electrical permit from a local building department, BCD has established a statewide rule (OAR 918-311-0065), which requires that all Level 2 EVSE installations obtain a single permit with a flat fee (based on the local jurisdiction's feeder permit fee for a circuit of equivalent size) with a maximum of two inspections.
Installing EVSE
If the existing electrical service is adequate for the additional required load, the electrician installs the branch circuit and EVSE under the Oregon Minor Label Program. The supervising electrician takes full responsibility for compliance with code requirements, including load calculations on existing electrical services.
Inspecting the Installation
Following an EVSE installation, the electrician logs the address and scope of work using the same online system used to request the minor installation labels for permitting. One in ten of the electrician's jobs is inspected by the local jurisdiction. If an EVSE installation fails the inspection, the electrician must purchase a regular permit from the local jurisdiction, correct the defect, and schedule a re-inspection.
Connecting with the Grid
The state's utilities have been involved in PEV deployment planning. They have performed initial modeling of PEV electricity demand and are confident that Oregon's current grid can manage EVSE-related demand in the foreseeable future.