Electrification of Transportation outside the I-5 Corridor

Posted by Mark Nystrom, Oregon Fellow working for the Association of Oregon Counties

Over the past few weeks I have been gathering information about how communities outside the I-5 corridor feel about the electrification of transportation.  This task has led me on trips with Sarah to Coos County, Tillamook County and most recently Harney County. 

When I was first given this task I was uncertain how rural Oregon would respond to the idea of electrification.  After all, everyone knows that people away from the I-5 live on ranches and drive hundreds of miles a day.  Or that seems to be the prevailing thought.  According to an ODOT study, rural Oregonians actually spend about the same amount of time in their cars as their counterparts in Portland.  In fact, most people live in towns and make the same standard trips in their cars as people in Eugene, Salem or Portland: they drive their kids to school and practice, they go to work, they go grocery shopping.  In other words, the majority of people living outside the I-5 corridor could replace their gas fueled car with a PEV.  Even the residents of these communities seemed surprised at how little they actually use their car.

That’s what has made these trips so interesting.  Once people starting thinking about it, they get pretty excited.  The people on the coast are excited about the prospect of attracting tourists from the I-5 communities to their towns by setting up charging stations.  They recognize how great it would be to minimize fuel and maintenance costs.  The people running the parks would like to have quieter vehicles for running errands in the park. They want to electrify public transportation.  Even way out in Harney County people were thinking about what vehicles they could replace with an EV.

They also recognize the barriers: counties do not have much money to spend these days and there are higher priorities than the electrification of transportation, many of the rural communities have been hit with job losses so individuals can’t afford to invest in changing to an EV, there are times when both public and private entities need to travel long distances that would exceed the range of a standard PEV.

However, they are optimistic and willing to try creative solutions to overcome these obstacles.  They are aware of the fact that the federal government is investing in electric infrastructure.  They are willing to convert some of their fleet vehicles.  They support car sharing with electrical vehicles.  They are willing to provide preferred parking spaces for EV charging stations.

While the electrification of the I-5 corridor is happening now, Oregonians outside this area are excited to see it coming to them sometime in the near future.  My task for the rest of the summer is quantify the results of the survey I distributed to elected officials, road maintenance employees and others employees in order to gauge their thoughts on electrification.  I will blog about these results as they start to come in.

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