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Charging stations for electric cars increasing

Gary Graunke on awareness mission

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Gary Graunke has been traveling the state promoting the use of electric vehicles and encouraging communities to look into charging stations – particularly in key corridors.


   Gary Graunke is on a mission: to ensure that charging stations are readily available so owners of all-electric cars can easily travel across the state.
   Graunke, vice chairman of the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association, knows a thing or two about electric vehicles. He currently owns and operates a 2011 Nissan Leaf, a 2008 Toyota Prius, and a 2000 Honda Insight, but has been fascinated by electric vehicles since the 1970s.
   He first became interested in 1966, when "a couple fellows from General Motors came to my high school and talked to my school about fuel cell cars which use hydrogen, but generate electricity to drive the vehicle."
   The problem was that there were only two that he was aware of at the time. "One was essentially a golf cart, and the other cost more than my house," he said.
   In 2000, his interest re-emerged, and he went to California to rent a GM EV1, and also a Honda EV-Plus. "I wanted to buy one, but they wouldn't sell them in Oregon," he said. Instead, he was able to obtain a three-year lease.
   Currently, Graunke estimates that there are about 20 quick charge stations around the state, but by the end of the year, he expects that there will be about 50.
   New charging stations will be installed at Welches and Government Camp, but Graunke thinks Madras is a more obvious location, since vehicles need a full charge for heading up Mount Hood. Electric vehicles recharge themselves on downhill slopes.
   For an investment of about $40,000 for the 50,000 watt charging unit, and $20,000 for installation, Graunke said a local entrepreneur could install a station, which allows an electric vehicle to recharge in 26 minutes.
   With a regular 120-volt outlet, he said it takes 20 hours to fully charge an electric battery. With a 240-volt outlet, that time drops to about seven hours, said Graunke, who uses a 240-volt outlet to charge his Nissan Leaf.
   Graunke, who has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is retired from Intel Labs in Hillsboro, where he worked in research.
   "We're just making people more aware of what electric vehicles are -- the strengths, limitations," he said. "There is virtually no maintenance on an electric car -- no oil changes, filters. It's mostly tires and wiper blades."
   "For my Leaf, the annual service was $20," he added.