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Initiative calls for charging sites along I-5 corridor for electric big rigs, delivery trucks.

Interstate 5 could take on a new look over the next decade if plans to increase the number of electric freight haulers and delivery trucks on the road and the infrastructure to power them come to fruition.

Portland General Electric and Pacific Power joined other electric utilities in Washington and California to support electric trucks on I-5 as part of the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative. A report compiled by the initiative recommends adding electric vehicle charging stations for freight haulers and delivery trucks at 50-mile intervals along the interstate and adjoining highways.

"The future of Oregon's transportation is electric, and utilities have an essential role to play in building the infrastructure needed to support a cleaner energy future," Aaron Milano, PGE's product portfolio manager for transportation electrification, said in a news release. "Laying the groundwork for an electric I-5 will help the West Coast meet its climate goals, provide cleaner air for our communities and provide new economic opportunities as we make the transition to electric vehicles and trucks."

Plans for the electrification of Interstate routes.Among other recommendations, the report calls for expanding state, federal and private programs that provide funding for transportation electrification, which could further accelerate electric truck adoption and create jobs and other economic opportunities by constructing charging sites.

PGE and Pacific Power already offer grant programs and are developing infrastructure programs that support non-residential electric vehicle charging. However, more support will be needed to reach transportation electrification levels identified in the report and meet state climate goals, according to the release.

"We're fortunate to have such great alignment in the West around discussing and planning for our shared energy future," said Eva DeCesaro, senior product manager for transportation electrification at Pacific Power. "Pacific Power and the other study sponsors are looking beyond our local service areas and working together toward regional solutions that meet the changing and diverse needs of the people we serve. The WCTC initiative roadmap will help us navigate this audacious journey toward significant changes around transportation electrification and could have lasting, positive impacts for generations to come."

Although heavy-duty trucks account for just 5 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads, they contribute 23 percent of all transportation emissions. Transportation is the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, making the electrification of freight transportation a critical part of meeting the state's climate goals. By 2030, it's estimated that electric vehicles could make up nearly 25% of medium-duty trucks and 5% of heavy-duty trucks for a total of 8% of all trucks on the road in Oregon, Washington and California, according to the report.

The report proposes a phased approach for electrifying the I-5 corridor. The first phase would involve installing 27 charging sites along the interstate at 50-mile intervals for medium-duty electric trucks, such as delivery vans, by 2025. By 2030, 14 of the 27 charging sites would be expanded to accommodate charging for electric big-rigs. Of the 27 proposed sites, five are in Oregon. Another 41 sites on other highways connected to I-5, including I-84, are also proposed for electrification.

Electric medium-duty trucks are expected to have an average range of 90 to 120 miles during the next five years. Over the next 10 years, heavy-duty electric trucks are expected to have a range of 230 to 325 miles, the report states.

The collaboration behind the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative includes nine electric utilities and two agencies representing more than two dozen municipal utilities. The group noted that a major investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure will help significantly with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic along the West Coast.

Pacific Power's DeCesaro said the initiative would provide "major health benefits" to communities near the highways. "This is especially true for underserved communities that are disproportionately impacted by carbon pollution."

Data shows that people who live near truck-traffic corridors experience higher rates of asthma, lung and heart disease and chronic bronchitis due largely to breathing toxic vehicle emissions and, specifically, diesel particulate matter. A recent study also indicates that increases in particulate pollution is associated with higher death rates among COVID-19 patients, according to the initiative's report.

The report also found that most utilities in Oregon, Washington and California have enough capacity in urban areas along I-5 to support interconnections with the medium-duty charging sites. Rural areas are more of a challenge, and none of them currently have the capacity to serve heavy-duty site development.

While clean fuel policies in West Coast states continue to drive transportation electrification in the near term, utilities and other stakeholders must begin proactive engagement to accommodate long lead times for system planning and site development. Lead times span several years in most cases.

Fleet operators surveyed for the report said that access to public charging would accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles because their trucks could use public sites to support their operations. Additional state, federal and private programs that provide funding for electrification could further accelerate electric truck adoption.

Utilities should serve as trusted infrastructure providers that can be leveraged to collaborate across a broad range of industry stakeholders, educate customers, help standardize systems of charging equipment for trucks and ensure safe deployment of charging sites, according to the report.

Melody Finnemore is a contract writer who regularly contributes to the Business Tribune. She can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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