April 25, 2011

Oregon Leads the Charge for Plug-In Vehicles and Infrastructure

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

Oregon's Plug-In Vehicle Evolution

Oregon has supported alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) since 1991, when it established AFV tax credits, and recently began focusing on plug-in vehicles 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 Oregon'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 and sustainability conference led to forming the Governor's Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group. This group focused on plug-in vehicles 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 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 plug-in vehicles
  • Oregon's population of innovators and early adopters of new technologies.

See the working group's 2010 report. In 2009 and 2010, more legislation (HB 2001 and SB 1059) encouraged plug-in vehicle use, which included creating standards for neighborhood electric vehicles and developing tools for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to estimate GHG reductions.

These legislative and planning efforts were 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 plug-in vehicle deployment, including smart grid and rate-structure considerations. Oregon's largest city, Portland, initiated its own activities (see Electric Vehicles: The Portland WayPDF). These efforts led to Oregon's participation in the EV Project.

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

The EV Project

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ECOtality is deploying nearly 15,000 charging stations in select locations nationwide through the EV Project to serve the first owners of Nissan LEAF electric vehicles and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The goal is to analyze this first wave of plug-in vehicles and infrastructure and facilitate the transition to large-scale, nationwide deployment.

EV Project deployment in Oregon will focus on the corridor defined by the cities of Portland, Salem, Corvallis, and Eugene. This area comprises seven utilities, four MPOs, and 70% of the state's population. EVSE deployment will include up to about 900 home-based stations for plug-in vehicle buyers as well as 1,150 publicly available Level 2 charging stations and 45 fast-charging stations. To assist with deployment, ECOtality developed electric vehicle charging infrastructure deployment guidelines for the Oregon I-5 metro areas of Portland, Salem, Corvallis, and Eugene. Oregon has assembled a large, diverse team to coordinate its work on the EV Project (see chart below).

Connecting Customers with EVSE Providers
As part of the EV Project, Nissan sends information about its LEAF customers (collected through the Nissan LEAF website) to the EV Project's EVSE provider, ECOtality. ECOtality contacts customers about their home EVSE options. Nissan also works with EVSE provider 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
As part of the EV Project, ECOtality assigns electricians from its preferred-contractor network to assess EVSE sites. If a site that qualifies for the EV Project is a standard, new single-family residential installation and no utility-service upgrade of the home's electrical capacity is required, ECOtality installs the EVSE for free. For more-complex EV Project sites, ECOtality may pay for a portion of the installation. If a site does not qualify for the EV Project (e.g., because the EVSE customer rents rather than owns a home), the customer has the option of working with an automaker's EVSE provider (such as AeroVironment), another EVSE provider, or any other licensed electrician.
Getting a Permit
For standard EVSE installations, a licensed electrician buys booklets of 10 minor installation labels for $140 under the Oregon Minor Label Program. Each label allows licensed employees to perform minor electrical installations. Standard EVSE installations are defined as those that are within sight of the electrical panel that supplies the EVSE, have a branch circuit that does not exceed 40 amps/240 volts, and are not in a damp location. More complex installations have different permitting requirements.
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 plug-in vehicle deployment planning. They have performed initial modeling of plug-in vehicle electricity demand and are confident that Oregon's current grid can manage EVSE-related demand in the foreseeable future. ECOtality is notifying Oregon's utilities of plug-in vehicle sales related to the EV Project.