The first of nine new high-speed charging stations is about to start powering electric vehicles in Kennewick.
Electric vehicles already started to pull up Monday to the new station at the Southridge Sports and Event Complex in the southwest parking lot along West Hilderbrand Boulevard off of Highway 395.
But drivers left disappointed. The station opens with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
"If you build it, they will come," said Robin Rego, manager of generation project development for Energy Northwest.
It and the other eight stations planned should relieve "range anxiety" and make travel by electric vehicle more practical across the state or just between its central and eastern towns.
The state's goal is to have a fast-charging station every 40 to 50 miles, Rego said.
That's no problem along the Interstate 5 corridor, but a challenge as travelers venture east to spend a weekend sampling Tri-City area wines or play golf in the sunshine.
Energy Northwest was awarded a $405,000 grant on behalf of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Alliance, or EVITA, in September 2017 to open up routes across Eastern Washington and to link the east and west sides.
More than $1 million is being spent, with much of the additional cost being paid by private vendors installing, operating and maintaining the new stations.
Plans call for opening an Ellensburg station in May; a Yakima station in June; Pasco, Connell and Cle Elum stations in July; and Prosser and Richland stations by September.
Pasco's station will be at the Starbucks on Court Street; Richland's in the Queensgate area; Prosser's off Wine Country Road; and Connell's on Main Street.
The Kennewick station is the first of its type in the Tri-Cities — a direct current, fast-charging station that can be used by most electric vehicles.
A supercharger station just for Teslas already is at 2811 W. 10th Ave.
A driver can pull up to the Southridge station and in 20 to 30 minutes charge up enough to drive another 250 miles, Rego said.
That's compared with a standard home garage outlet, which take an hour to restore five miles' worth of battery life. If the sort of outlet used for appliances like water heaters and ovens is used, an hour of charging would allow a car to travel 20 to 25 miles.
A similar charger will be available as a second option at the Southridge station for those with a couple of hours to charge their car.
For the Kennewick station, the Benton PUD formed a partnership with the city of Kennewick to build on city land. Greenlots and EV4 are acting as operators and builders.
"This project is an important first step in achieving a 'win, win, win'," said Chad Bartram, general manager for the Benton Public Utility District.
Not only could it attract more visitors to the Tri-Cities, but travelers or area residents could choose to visit nearby shops and restaurants while their cars are charging, giving the local economy a boost.
It helps utility customers by spreading fixed costs of utilities across a larger base of electricity sales, potentially reducing pressure on utility rates.
And it is a win for the environment. It encourages more people to purchase electric cars if they know they can use them for out-of-town travel.
At the Kennewick station "vehicles will be powered by carbon-free hydro and nuclear energy — a positive way to reduce carbon in the transportation sector, the state's highest emitter," Bartram said.
Once the full string of chargers is in place, Gov. Jay Inslee says he and First Lady Trudi look forward to driving their Chevy Bolt across the state.
"The charger in Kennewick is a critical link to building out a robust and reliable charging network that covers more of our state's travel corridors," the governor said.
EVITA was created through the Tri-City Development Council's Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative. Members include the Benton, Franklin and Kittitas PUDs, the Benton Rural Electric Association, Richland Energy Services, Ellensburg and Energy Northwest.
Annette Cary; 509-582-1533