MOSES LAKE - It may be only one unit, but the recent addition of an electric vehicle charging station in downtown Moses Lake could prove instrumental in drawing more visitors to the city.
More and more car manufacturers, including Nissan, Chevrolet, BMW and even Cadillac, are adding electric vehicles to their lineups, Eric Smith, of EV charging station producer SemaConnect, said. As a result, electric cars are beginning to pop up on roads around the country, he said.
Washington state is no exception. And as the popularity of electric vehicles increases, so does the demand for places for these cars to "refuel," said Smith.
"A typical electric vehicle has about 100-mile range," he said. "That's not very far if you have to go from Seattle to here."
Smith said just as car owners rely on gas stations during long road trips, electric vehicle owners rely on charging stations- which still aren't as abundant as traditional gas stations. Having a charging station almost ensures that an electric vehicle owner will stop in your town to recharge, he said.
"This right here (the charging station) is going to bring that business to you," said Smith. "So people traveling maybe between towns are going to say I need to stop here and fuel up."
The Moses Lake charging station was installed in Sinkiuse Square at the start of the year, and is now up and running. The station can accommodate two electric vehicles at one time.
The units in Moses Lake will fully charge an electric vehicle in about two to three hours.
Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Doran-Martinez said the charging station already appears in Internet searches for EV charging stations.
"There are lots of resources to find where charging stations are," she said. Electric vehicle owners can look at maps online or on their smart phones for example, said Doran-Martinez.
"So it shows that Moses Lake has two available for people to pull up and charge," she said.
And since it takes a while to fully recharge, those car owners will be spending that time in Moses Lake, said Doran-Martinez.
"We hope they take advantage of the great location we selected for them," she said. "They can go get a bite to eat in a restaurant or shop our shops here on Third Avenue."
Doran-Martinez said the charging station was donated to the city by Electrical Industry Group of Washington. The chamber initially made contact with the electrical association last year, during the retail recruitment convention in Las Vegas, she said.
Ryan Etheridge, of EIG, was in Moses Lake Thursday to officially present the city with the charging station.
Doran-Martinez said the chamber and other sponsoring businesses will underwrite the cost of the power for the initial introductory period. She said how long the introductory period would last has not been established yet.
"It could be six months or a year, but at least six months of free charges," said Doran-Martinez. "Anybody that comes here after, it's just a nominal fee to get charged."
Smith said vehicle owners have several ways to pay at charging stations. They can pay over the phone using phone numbers displayed at each station, with their smart phones or with pre-paid cards, he said.
While electric vehicles are still for the most part only in large metropolitan areas, Smith said he expects the trend to eventually reach smaller communities like Moses Lake.
"It's in Seattle, and it's going to migrate here," he said. "There are Teslas, (Nissan) Leafs, (Chevrolet) Volts and the new BMWs, all these cars are popping up everywhere and they'll be here as well."
Electric vehicles are beginning to appeal to drivers for a variety of reasons, said Smith. Saving money at the gas pump is a major one, he said.
Smith, who owns a Nissan Leaf, said with the current cost of power he can drive 30 miles for around 60 cents. The owner of a car that gets 30 miles per gallon, is paying around $3.60 a gallon right now, he said.
"So you can pay $3.60 for a gas car to get 30 miles or a Nissan Leaf which is 60 cents for 30 miles," said Smith. "Do the math over time and that's a huge savings."
He said electric vehicles also have a better impact on the environment, which is a draw for some drivers. Other drivers say they like not having to rely on foreign oil.
"There are a lot of reasons people choose to get an electric vehicle," said Smith. "It's an alternative to fuel and this is where it's heading."