Portland State University and PGE co-sponsor a remarkable experiment in electric vehicle charging behavior, called Electric Avenue. Located in Portland at 633 SW Montgomery Street, it displays six level two charging station products (Blink, GE, OPConnect, Shorepower), plus one of the first DC FC installed in the country manufactured by Eaton. Designated EV only parking spots,warnings are directed to ICE vehicles who nonetheless try to quietly slip into the available spaces with misguided hope that they won’t get ticketed (they will, to the tune of $70.00). Finding parking is such a premium at PSU that many drivers no doubt pull in reflexively. Opened on August 17th, Electric Avenue featured a flashmob that danced in coordinated t-shirts and steps to the hauntingly obsessive song- “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant.
Each day, each week, offers PSU a new opportunity to see how EV users and publicly sited charging stations interact. Practical issues become apparent. Does the experimental signage communicate the parking location and restrictions properly? Does the DC FC properly instruct people how to use the connector without breaking the Yazaki Energy Systems manufactured tab.
Do the chargers function appropriately in all types of weather and usage? Do the chargers attract graffiti? Can seven chargers be sequenced on the same street easily? Is clustering of chargers less expensive and more beneficial to attracting users? Do people find the location near the streetcar useful? When does most charging occur and for how long?
Perhaps its most important function is drawing attention to the technology. Students walk past as I connect my LEAF to a charging port. Some spontaneously taking pictures with their cell phones. They point. They talk huddled in groups. They try not to stare. But there is electricity in air.
As part of recent EV Roadmap 4, hosted by Portland State University and Portland General Electric (PGE), the newest member of the EV passenger car family debuted- the Coda 4 Door Sedan. I was able to take it for a test drive at OMSI, although, because it was the prototype (aka very expensive), we were limited to driving it around the parking lot.
A big distinguishing feature is its 36 kWh battery, much bigger than the LEAF’s. It is rated at 120-150 miles. The performance is not quite up to the LEAF’s crispness in braking, accelerating and turning. It definitely has a 70’s Toyota Corolla Compact car feel to it- no frills, big trunk, large passenger compartment, no stunning electronic displays. This car says the word “fleet” to me. It is manufactured in China and assembled in Venetia, California. They plan on a West coast roll out and will display it in large malls (using some of that hitherto vacant storefront space). Don’t worry, the colors do not include bright yellow. The price point is in the high 30’s before tax credits.
The EV Roadmap series continues to be a stunning conference. It consistently addresses the most pertinent and vexing questions facing those of us pushing the evolution of the US’s transportation system. A separate blog entry will follow.