Super-fast electric car charger arrives on campus

Date posted: November 1, 2012

Electric vehicle (EV) owners can breathe a little easier when they’re traveling on the Eastside now that Bellevue College has installed a rare DC fast charger on its campus. Conveniently located near the I-90/I-405 interchange, the fast charger, the Eastside’s first and available for use in a few weeks, will help combat “range anxiety” that EVs can provoke by providing nearly full recharges in about half an hour. It’s the first fast charger on any college or university campus in the entire western United States.

“These chargers will go a long way toward encouraging people to consider getting an electric car. It makes a statement that Bellevue College is serious about doing everything we can to reduce vehicle emissions, which are a huge source of our carbon footprint,” said Deric Gruen, Bellevue College’s sustainability and resource conservation manager. “What’s great about this fast charger is that it gives us the capability to serve many more people. You’re more likely to find an open station now.”

DC fast chargers differ from conventional chargers by utilizing direct current to provide an 80 percent charge in approximately 30 minutes. By contrast, it can take several hours for the more popular level 2 chargers to provide a full charge, and even a full day for a level 1 charger that’s powered from a regular household plug. There are only 87 DC fast chargers available for public use in the entire country as of this writing; this will be the 13th in Washington state.

In addition to the fast charger, BC installed two more level 2 chargers on its campus that join two existing chargers that were added this past summer. All five stations, which will be available for public use, are part of the Blink network and charge usage fees (visit www.blinknetwork.com for more information). To complement the chargers, the college also plans to add an all-electric Nissan Leaf as part of an on-campus car sharing program for students, faculty and staff.

BC students spearheaded the chargers’ installation in order to create a more supportive campus for EVs. The project was made possible primarily with a federal Department of Energy grant, and students picked up the balance of the cost with funds from a student sustainability fee.

BC has worked to promote ridesharing and other alternatives to driving alone or driving gasoline-powered vehicles in order to reduce its overall environmental footprint. These efforts, including a subsidized transit program for employees and students and a new ride match website, recently earned the college a Governor’s Commute Smart Award.