Portland Oregon Works to Develop Best Practices for Electric Vehicle Adoption



While many are suffering burnout from the overwhelming amount of EV discussion as of late, the conference hosted by Portland State University and Portland General Electric last month was different.

Called “EV Road Map: Preparing Oregon for the Introduction of Electric Vehicles,” the event was one of the first to set the stage for real rollout and testing of citywide electric vehicle adoption.

The conference brought together many of the area’s electric vehicle stakeholders to discuss and begin planning for EVs in the region. These stakeholders included OEMs such as Nissan, Toyota, and smart USA, as well as Portland General Electric, local business associations, the local university, many city and county leaders including the Mayor of Corvallis, OR, charging station providers, and fleet managers.

While we are seeing lots of roadmaps (like those from the Electrification Coalition and, of course, Project Get Ready), the truth is nobody can be sure how things will work until we start deploying EVs and installing charging stations.

But Oregon is in a unique position because it is one of the few North American regions chosen to participate in eTec’s government-subsidized “The EV Project.” As part of this $100 million project, Portland will receive nearly 1,000 Nissan LEAFs (for purchase) as well as thousands of Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, and a few Level 3 chargers. The goal of the project is to collect and analyze data captured by the vehicles and charging stations to help stakeholders understand use patterns to help plan future EV rollouts. Additionally, various revenue systems will be employed to help understand the economics of charging infrastructure.

Two interesting studies were presented at the conference: Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall Inc.’s local survey to assess area residents’ knowledge, perception, and support of EVs and Idaho National Laboratory’s recent testing on plug-in electric vehicle use.

The DHM study allows Portland stakeholders to understand their potential EV consumer market. Key findings of the study included:

  • High interest among Willamette Valley residents to purchase EVs
  • Residents are positive in their views about EVs and perceive them to be good for inner-city travel
  • Safety, the environment, and easy access to charging stations are critical to resident adoption of EVs
  • Local business impressions could rise significantly if they use EVs
  • Residents expect the Pacific Northwest to be national leaders in EV adoption

In the other study, INL tested twelve PHEV conversion vehicles, including a 2007 Hymotion Ford Escape, a 2007 Hymotion Toyota Prius, a 2007 Electrovaya Ford Escape, a 2006 EnergyCS Toyota Prius, and a 2003 Renault Kangoo PHEV and discovered some interesting results. Driving behavior (especially aggressive driving) significantly impacts mileage and range.

The study also discovered that the majority of drivers typically plug-in their vehicle for charging between the hours of 2:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. This is a serious issue as the beginning of that charging curve is right in the middle of the day’s peak power consumption. Utilities need to encourage EV drivers to set timers for late-night charging so EVs do not increase the already overloaded grid. Other interesting results from the INL study include time of day when driving and temperature affects on batteries and fuel economy.

The good news is that Portland is on a fast track in preparing for the EV market, but it has a long way to go before it is EV-ready. Financially, the city is fortunate in that it has a significant head start on other regions through the eTec grant.

And, with Portland’s participation in initiatives like Project Get Ready—where stakeholders can share data and lessons on the road to EV readiness—others will benefit from its success and learn from its failures.

Tripp Hyde is an analyst with Rocky Mountain Institute’s transportation practice. He is currently working on Project Get Ready to help cities prepare for electric vehicles and their associated infrastructure.

About the Author

Tripp is an analyst with RMI’s Mobility + Vehicle Efficiency practice. He is currently working on Project Get Ready to help cities prepare for electric vehicles and their associated infrastructure. Tripp has an engineering and consulting background, as well as automotive and urban transportation experience. Prior to RMI, Tripp was a freelance software consultant, started and ran his own social networking company, was a senior product designer for a telecommunications software engineering boutique in Boston, and consulted for Accenture. Before Project Get Ready Tripp wrote case studies for Factor Ten Engineering and also worked on the Communications team.