RICHLAND -- An Oregon company wants the Tri-Cities to be ready for electric vehicles.
A company representative made a presentation Monday to about 18 community and business leaders on the OpConnect Electric Vehicle Charging System at the Richland Community Center.
The Tri-Cities may be small but it's forward-looking, said Nathan Isaacs, business development manager for Beaverton, Ore.-based Optimization Technologies, and a former Herald reporter.
Electric vehicles are a viable alternative to vehicles that run on fossil fuel technology, and they are expected soon to grow in a big way, Isaacs said while talking about the benefits of the charging system his company has developed.
The production of electric cars like Nissan's Leaf and General Motors' Chevy Volt is being highly anticipated because they will help reduce carbon emissions, he said. "If you wait until something happens, then you're too late."
A DOE pilot project already is under way in several metro communities across the nation, including Seattle and Portland, to promote electric vehicles. The first part of the plan is to set up 2,500 charging stations before Nissan makes available 1,000 of its electric cars in those communities late next year, he said.
Though the whole concept may be more applicable to large metro areas, it has potential use in the communities like the Tri-Cities, Isaacs said.
A few years ago PNNL researchers concluded that the nation's electric grid could meet the needs of about 70 percent of all U.S. light duty vehicles if their batteries were charged during nonpeak hours. And his presentation is the next step to educate decision makers about a new technology, he said.
His company's system can be used by residential customers, businesses and public agencies, he said.
The system runs on a software with multiple smart applications that help customers charge their vehicles during nonpeak hours, help utility companies manage grid load, integrate renewable energies and provide useful data to car and battery manufacturers, Isaacs said.
The presence of more charging stations will help remove range anxiety for EV drivers, he said.
The system, which can simultaneously serve about four vehicles, can be installed -- ready for use -- for about $10,000, he said. A stripped-down home version would cost about $1,000.
It typically would take about two hours to fully recharge a battery, though a lot would depend on the battery and charging process, he said. Some of the new cars prevent total drainage of battery power by shutting off some ancillary operations, he said. That helps makes sure you never have to begin charging your car battery from an absolute low point, he said.
It's a futuristic concept but Ben Franklin Transit would be interested in looking at the commercial version of the product as electric transit buses become popular, said Dick Ciccone, maintenance and special projects manager at BFT.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com