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Sen. Merkley
​Sen. Merkley: "Oil-Free Across Oregon" tour
Traveling border to border without a drop of gas
 
Think electric vehicles only work for short trips around town?  Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley just proved that wrong, driving from one end of the state to another in a Nissan LEAF using the state’s growing network of electric vehicle charging stations.
 
Merkley drove from Portland to Ashland on an “Oil-Free Across Oregon” tour before Independence Day to demonstrate how electric vehicles can help America achieve energy independence.  Along the way, Merkley filled up at charging stations that ODOT and others have deployed to expand the range of electric vehicles.
 
“It was great to pull off the highway in Southern Oregon and charge up at one of ODOT’s AeroVironment stations in only a few minutes,” said Senator Merkley. “This new capability is an important stride in our journey to reduce our dependence on imported oil, which is good for our economy, good for national security, and good for our environment. Moreover, in this age of $50 fill-ups for gas-powered vehicles, it was thrilling to drive a car that costs only 3 cents a mile in energy.”
 
With gas prices at near record highs this spring, a growing number of people are looking to fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles to avoid a significant hit to their pocketbook.  An increasing number of plug-in electric vehicles are now traveling Oregon’s roads.  Many people think twice before buying an electric vehicle (EV) because the absence of a widespread network of charging facilities creates “range anxiety”—the fear of running out of juice.  But range anxiety—as well as actual range limitations—are being reduced by widespread deployment of EV charging stations, as Senator Merkley’s drive proves.
 
ODOT has received federal funding to build an EV charging network along the I-5 corridor and throughout Northwest Oregon, Central Oregon, and the Coast from Astoria to Coos Bay, connecting the state’s major urban areas to one another and to major travel destinations and smaller communities. ODOT’s private sector partner AeroVironment will install at least 40 “DC fast charge” stations that can recharge a depleted battery in less than half an hour.  
 
Stations are being installed at key locations near major travel destinations and along heavily-traveled highway corridors at regular intervals. Target host sites include commercial enterprises that offer other activities for EV drivers while they wait for their vehicle to charge, including truck stops, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants, as well as public facilities.
 
The first phase of this network, which includes 10 stations along I-5 from Linn County to Ashland, is complete, and EV owners are regularly using the stations to travel between the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon, just as Sen. Merkley did.  The next phase of this effort has now gotten under way.  Sites are being selected for charging stations, and several stations will be available to the public soon.  Over the next year, the fast charger network will expand beyond the I-5 corridor, connecting Central Oregon and the Oregon Coast to the I-5 corridor.  When the network is complete, EVs will be able to range far and wide.
 
This network of fast chargers connecting communities will complement The EV Project, which will install more than 1000 charging stations in homes and public areas within the urban areas of the Willamette Valley. It will also tie into similar efforts in Washington state, creating a multi-state West Coast Electric Highway. 
 
For more information on ODOT’s efforts, visit the department’s electric vehicles charging network webpage.