To date most of the focus on the West Coast Electric Highway has been on the series of DC fast charge stations situated along I-5 between the British Columbia and California borders, but now there’s an eastern component along U.S. Highway 2 that greatly extends EV range in a way the the I-5 corridor has not as yet. The US2/Stevens Pass Scenic Byway now features a series of the AeroVironment stations with 480-volt DC fast chargers and 240-volt charging, all located at strategic spots between Sultan and Wenatchee that allow EVs to make the 130-mile trek from Seattle to Wenatchee undaunted by the 4050-foot high Stevens Pass in the middle.
The DC fast chargers are a critical component to extend EVs beyond their primary commuter use because they allow for an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. The I-5 corridor charging stations still have some gaps and so it’s not yet possible to make an EV trip between Seattle and Portland or Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. But an inaugural rally/test drive on Highway 2 over the weekend of June 16 demonstrated that the Cascades are not an obstacle to an EV.
The rally featured 10 Leafs (including ours), a Mitsubishi i-Miev and a Tesla in staggered starts to launch the Hwy. 2 portion of the Electric Highway. Organized by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Plugin Center.com, the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association and local businesses and governments, the rally was part of an ongoing effort to establish North Central Washington as an EV destination.
Thanks to some detailed, pioneering survey work by Tom and Cathy Saxton, EV drivers had very useful information about how many bars their instrument panel should be showing at critical spots to ensure minimum “road anxiety,” particularly when it came to climbing Stevens Pass. Their information proved to be so reliable that no one ran out of juice and had to resort to the infamous “Flatbed of Shame.”
Indeed, as we experienced it, the trip proved to be highly enjoyable. Although the usual two and a half hour travel time between Seattle and Wenatchee (longer when there is summer weekend traffic) more than doubles with having to stop three times for charging, there is a valuable benefit to taking a slower pace — you actually get to meet people in towns along the way that we normally speed through, everyone wants to talk about EVs, and you provide some economic goodwill to local businesses. The US2/Stevens Pass electic highway is an important step forward for EVs.