A link to the future of transportation was made today in Bellingham when the newest in the trail of electric vehicle chargers officially opened, and "fueled" its first car.
The West Coast Electric Highway connects the Southern border of Oregon all the way up through Whatcom County to the Canadian border with fast charging stations for electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt.
Two stations opened in Whatcom County today, a level two charging station, which can charge an electric battery in three to six hours, and a Fast Charge station in Sehome Village which can charge a battery in just about half an hour. The charging stations are the innovations of technology company AeroVironment.
It's a big step in the move toward using green energy and cutting back use of non-renewable resources like oil, an important issue in a town like Bellingham, Mayor Kelli Linville said.
"Bellingham residents have a long-standing tradition of protecting the environment," Linville said. "Today's event highlights our commitment to using and promoting alternative modes of transportation, just one of many ways we are working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support alternative energy creation. I want to thank all of our partners in this project. Bellingham is proud to play a role in this innovative public-private partnership that has so many benefits to our community and our region."
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Sehome charging station was attended by the likes of Rep. Kristine Lytton, Mayor Kelli Linville and City Council member Michael Lilliquist and Jack Weiss, as well as state officials like the Director of Commerce and the Secretary of Transportation. Governor Christine Gregoire was scheduled to attend the ceremony, but couldn't make it.
Washington State Director of Commerce Rogers Weed drove up for the cermony in his own Nissan Leaf, which he bought last year, he said. Not only are the chargers good for the environment, he said, they're also good for the economy, because they help to build electric vehicle related businesses throughout the state.
"On many levels its exciting for me to be here today and supporting this event," Weed said. "These Fast Chargers particularly are going to be super compelling for longer trips where you need to be able to stop in and refuel."
Construction on the Sehome charging station began in December. Today marked the grand opening not only of the Bellingham station, but of others along the Washington I-5 corridor and along Highway 2.
Having the station at the Sehome Village seemed like a logical and innovative idea to keep businesses in the area thriving, property manager Mark Grey said.
"It really is a win-win-win," he said, citing the advantages of the charging station for customers, businesses and the environment.
In the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee, shop at the local stores, or get a massage, Sehome Village's Fast Charge station can have an electric vehicle fully charged and ready for the next adventure.
Bellingham resident Ken Carrasco said he was contacted by the dealership to be involved with the ceremony as the first car to charge up at the new station. Carrasco said he has owned his Nissan Leaf since August of 2011 and has put 9,000 miles on it in just that short time.
"I haven't used a drop of foreign oil," Carrasco said. "[And] this car has allowed me to reduce my contribution to climate change."
Not only does the station allow electric-car travelers to be more connected with their southerly neighbors, Carrasco said, but it also serves to help connect them with the rest of the county without worrying about when and where they could charge up next.
"Today we meet in Bellingham to celebrate a transportation milestone," said AeroVironment's vice president of business development Kristen Helsel. "But this is far from Bellingham's first."
In the late 1800s, Helsel said, Bellingham, then known as Whatcom became a hub for the Fraser Cayon gold rush, connecting places by the Whatcom Trail.
"People from all over the world came to travel insearch of exciting opportunities for themselves, and for their families," Helsel said. "Today, Bellingham and Washington State are once again leaders in this new area of opportunity, opening a modern electric vehicle trail for generations to come."