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When in Spokane, plug in!

On Earth Day 2010, we unveiled three electric vehicle charging stations around Spokane. These stations are part of our focus on new technology and it’s relationship to our energy future. As more and more electric and electric hybrid vehicles come into production, drivers are looking for places to plug in. And we’re looking to understand the impact these needs have on our system.

The stations are located at Spokane’s City Hall, Steam Plant Square and Avista’s headquarters on Mission Avenue. We’ll monitor their usage and upgrade them accordingly as technology and needs progress.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Avista’s Manager of Applied Research, Dave Holmes, were joined by members of the Panhandle Electric Car Club at the launch event.

Electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles can be plugged in while owners are shopping or doing business, helping to stretch their batteries during the day. And, while it would take several hours to completely charge a battery using one of these 120-volt outlets (a standard outlet like one you’d have in your home), the boost should help. Later, these stations will be upgraded to the faster, 240-volt chargers.

So who pays for the power at the charging stations? At these stations, for now, the property owner pays the bill – not the individual charging up. It’s hard to say how that will work in the future – that’s one thing we’ll be trying to work out. That said, it costs very little to fully charge a vehicle at one of the stations, from less than a dollar for one of Avista’s Plug-in Hybrid Electric Toyota Priuses, to around $3.50 for an all-electric Tesla.

As the cost of fuel and pressure to lessen dependence on oil increases, consumers are adopting more alternative modes of transportation. Electric/gas hybrid vehicles are now available to the public, and later this year the first mass-produced electric vehicles will be available. Mass production along and federal tax credits are making electric transportation more affordable, too, with some new models expected to cost around $30,000.

For our purposes, it’s exciting to launch another new project to explore renewable energy and the changing energy landscape. We need to understand how electric transportation will affect energy demand, and we want to give our customers tools and information to incorporate renewable energy into their everyday lives.

We’re starting small, with three stations. But electric vehicle charging stations may one day be as common as corner gas stations are today. We’re hopeful that installing these stations will help us be prepared for that.

You can watch this two-minute video for an quick overview of the unveiling events on Earth Day and listen to comments provided by Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Dave Holmes, Avista’s Manager of Applied Research.