Tri-City alliance forms to explore charging stations for e-vehicles

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to fix Karen Miller’s title.

Tri-City interests are looking at the possibility of installing charging stations for electric vehicles in the Mid-Columbia.

Right now, that possibility is in the initial brainstorming stage.

The Franklin County and Benton County public utility districts, Energy Northwest and other local entities are seeking grants to study the subject, said Karen Miller, Benton County PUD spokeswoman.

However, no timetable for coming up with a plan has been set yet.

The Mid-Columbia effort is called the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Alliance.

It has received letters of support from the city governments of Richland, West Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, Connell and Ellensburg — plus all their ports, chambers of commerce, tourism associations and economic development groups.

The Tri-City Development Council and Mid-Columbia Electric Vehicles Association also support the alliance.

Miller said installing electric vehicle charging stations would help attract western Washington electric car drivers to Eastern Washington. “It could be a tourist draw,” she said.

A minimum target would be a charging station each in Kennewick, Richland, West Richland and Pasco.

“We’re in heart of research and development country, and this should be part of it. … We need to be thinking ahead, to be proactive,” she said.

The website plugshare.com shows there are 24 electric car charging station locations in the Tri-Cities.

Kadlec Regional Medical Center’s new five-story garage has two EV Link chargers that are free to use. The garage has capacity for 14 chargers.

A couple months ago, the Benton and Franklin PUDs lobbied for a bill by Rep Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, that would have let public utilities seek private-sector help in installing electric-vehicle charging stations. But that bill did not make it out of committee.

Current state law forbids the private sector and public utilities from tackling this as a joint effort. Tarleton’s bill was designed specifically for Seattle City Light, but it is expected to be expanded to cover all public utilities, including those in rural areas.

Seattle City Light hopes to install at least 20 charging stations for electric vehicles this year and next year around the city. That would be the first stage of the public utility’s hopes to set up a yet-to-be-determined number of charging stations across Seattle. Seattle has a goal to support the use of 15,000 electric vehicles by 2025.

Seattle City Light is still in the beginning stages of calculating the number of charging stations needed and their locations. A Seattle long-range timetable, a budget, plus private and public revenue sources, still have to be identified.  Other unknowns include how much a customer would pay for electricity at a charging station and the effects on Seattle City Light ratepayers.

The city of Seattle has allocated $2 million for installing the initial 20 charging stations. The cost per station is tentatively budgeted at $80,000 each, but that can easily change as details get nailed down.

EVgo Services, a New Jersey-based network of nationwide charging stations, has about 900 stations nationwide. Fourteen are in Washington, in King and Snohomish counties.

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