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Seattle City Light Joins West Coast Electric Utilities in Mapping Out Electric Truck Charging Sites Along I-5

West Coast Clean Transit Corridor would create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from freight transportation, help eliminate health-harming diesel emissions from trucks.

Seattle City Light joins electric utilities in three West Coast states to announce the results of a study that could lead to significant reductions of pollution from freight transportation up and down the Pacific Coast and create jobs in an economy hit hard by the novel coronavirus.

The West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative, a study commissioned by an unprecedented collaboration among nine electric utilities and two agencies representing more than two dozen municipal utilities, recommends adding electric vehicle charging for freight haulers and delivery trucks at 50-mile intervals along Interstate 5 and adjoining highways.

“As Seattle City Light highlighted in our 2019 transportation electrification strategic analysis, preparing for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle adoption is a key area where utility intervention can have pivotal impact,” said Emeka Anyanwu, Seattle City Light’s Energy Innovation and Resources Director. “We’re excited to partner with our utility colleagues across the West and other stakeholders to evaluate and articulate solutions to speed the transition to electric transportation along the I-5 corridor. This will be a necessary component of a meaningful response to the overall climate crisis as well as the direct and disparate impacts of pollution on the communities living along these highways.”

Other initiative sponsors of the study are Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Northern California Power Agency, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, Puget Sound Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Public Power Authority. HDR completed the study.

The study’s final report, published today, proposes a phased approach for electrifying the I-5 corridor. The first phase would involve installing 27 charging sites along I-5 at 50-mile intervals for medium-duty electric vehicles, such as delivery vans, by 2025. Then, later, 14 of the 27 charging sites would be expanded to also accommodate charging for electric big rigs by 2030, when it is estimated that 8% of all trucks on the road in California could be electric.

Of the 27 proposed sites, 16 are in California, five are in Oregon and six are in Washington. An additional 41 sites on other highways that connect to I-5 are being proposed for electrification. Those highways include Interstates 8, 10, 80, 210 and 710 and state routes 60 and 99 in California; I-84 in Oregon and I-90 in Washington.

The report recommends expanding state, federal or private programs that provide funding for electrification, which could further accelerate electric truck adoption and expand economic opportunities associated with building sites.

In 2019, the Washington state legislature passed House Bill 1512, enabling electric utilities to incorporate transportation electrification into utility modernization. City Light, along with City of Seattle leadership and departments, has already been moving toward that envisioned future with the Drive Clean Seattle Initiative and the Green New Deal. City Light has conducted in-depth transportation electrification analysis, is piloting public and residential EV charging, partnering with regional public transit agencies, and is launching time-of-day electricity rates to better understand potential impacts of this growing market.

Other key findings in the report are:

  • Most utilities in California, Oregon and Washington 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 the rural areas currently have capacity to serve heavy-duty site development.
  • Stakeholders, including utilities, must begin proactive engagement to accommodate long lead times (multiple years in most cases) for system planning and site development.
  • Clean fuel policies in West Coast states continue to drive transportation electrification in the near term and 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.
  • Fleet operators surveyed as part of the study identified that access to public charging would accelerate deployment of electric vehicles because their trucks could use public sites to support their operations.

In Washington, the transportation sector accounts for the largest source of air pollution and more than 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions[1]. In the Seattle area, road transportation made up two thirds, or 66%, of core emissions in 2014[2]. 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, specifically diesel particulate matter. A recent study from Harvard researchers also indicates that increases in particulate pollution is associated with higher death rates among COVID-19 patients.

“We know relying on our clean fuel to electrify transportation reduces emissions and pollution to the benefit of the climate and the communities disproportionally impacted due to proximity to high-traffic freight corridors,” said Anyanwu. “We also believe investments in transportation electrification infrastructure can be a catalyst for economic development and job opportunities desperately needed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. City Light and our partners are well positioned to quickly capitalize on those opportunities.”

[1] Washington State Department of Ecology. 2018. “Washington State Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 1990-2015. Report to the Legislature”. Publication 18-02-043.

[2] City of Seattle, Office of Mayor Jenny Durkan. 2018. “Seattle Climate Action Plan”.