Electric Fizzle

nothing In Oregon, supposed alt transportation Mecca, “electric” [read: coal, nuclear] cars remain, despite large public giveaways, vaporware:

Those public charging stations — the plug-in infrastructure that will help wary consumers overcome the dreaded “range anxiety”?

Well, good luck finding one.

Ecotality, the San Francisco company awarded $130 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to build the network of public charging stations, was supposed to have 1,100 installed in Oregon by the end of next month. But as of last week it has yet to install a single public station in Oregon.

Not one. [Source]

Meanwhile, the promo “electric” cars delivered to the Oregon Department of Transportation, as a means of spurring the whole boondoggle along? How great are those? Not so great, as reported by ODOT’s own lead agent in the area:

Yesterday was the longest voyage for ODOT’s new Nissan LEAF since it was delivered two weeks ago. The occasion was a meeting at the Flanders building in Portland with the planning managers of Regions 1 and 2 to talk about the TIGER 2 grant for installing DC fast charge stations in NW Oregon.

ODOT fleet asked that we stop at the Nissan dealership in Wilsonville to have a software update installed in the LEAF, and that along with the round trip from Salem to Portland seemed eminently doable since there was a brand new 240V, Level 2 charging station installed at Flanders last week.

Region 2 Planning Manager Lisa Nell, Richard Beck from Environmental services and me left the motor pool with the LEAF telling us we had a range of 105 miles – no problem. We drove up the freeway with cruise control set at the speed limit and arrived at Flanders with the LEAF telling us we had a range of 35 miles. What? We traveled 45 miles and the car depleted 70% of its battery?

While in Portland and down to 30% power, the ODOT crew received not one but two more charges, with these results:

We have a great meeting about the TIGER project for an hour and a half, then went out to check out the LEAF. It’s been plugged in all this time so there should be plenty of juice for the return trip, right? Huh, we turn it on and it tells us we now have a range of 56 miles. In an hour and a half we’ve gained 21 miles…

Remembering that we said we’d stop be the dealership we pull off at the N. Wilsonville exit and they’re expecting us. While they’re installing the new software, the service manager tells me they’ll give us a little charge with their newly installed Level 2 chargers, which turned out to be a very little charge because it didn’t register on our range meter.

We’re off and running now in “ECO” mode (to conserve electrons) with the heater off (ditto) and just south of Woodburn we hit a hailstorm (oh, no – we have to turn on the windshield wipers – OK – slow intermittent only). Approaching Keizer we now have about 9 miles left. Lisa uses her GPS and determines we have only 6 miles to go – should be OK, but just in case she calls fleet – voicemail – then zero’s out – voicemail again. She calls Maintenance – voicemail again.

Meanwhile, Richard is taking an inventory of provisions on-board (apple, energy bar, leftover pizza) and I’m having visions of the photo of 3 ODOT employees stranded along I-5 in a prominently marked EV that run out of juice on the front page of the paper…

We finally pull in to the brand new charging station where the LEAF resides with the range meter reading 2 miles…

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