Project: Electric vehicle support
Jurisdiction: King County, Wash.
Agency: Department of Transportation
Date began: Fall 2008

Preparing for automobile manufacturers to roll out more models that use plug-in electric vehicle technology, King County, Wash., is participating in research to help develop the technology and installing outlets for residents to charge their vehicles. In October, the county launched a pilot program to encourage residents to recharge their electric vehicles at Metro Transit services park-and-ride lots. With 17 charging outlets installed at two park-and-ride lots, the county is installing 22 more at three additional lots. Under the program, residents register with the county to park in designated stalls and use the recharging outlets for free. Use of the stalls is limited to electric-vehicle owners enrolled in the pilot program, with priority given to individuals using battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which are more range-limited than plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and entirely dependent on recharging for their power and operating range. Since October, two people have signed up for the program, but county officials expect demand to grow when Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet begin introducing highway-capable electric vehicles in 2010 and 2011.

King County also has converted four of its Toyota Priuses to PHEV technology as part of a joint research project with Idaho National Labs (INL) and three other agencies: Seattle, the Port of Seattle and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. By late last year, 13 of the agencies' existing Priuses were converted and equipped with lithium ion batteries, and data about their performance is contributing to the Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program. Each vehicle conversion kit cost $13,000, which was partially funded by INL grants. So far, King County's converted cars are averaging 60 miles per gallon (mpg), with some occasionally logging 99 mpg. Before conversion, the cars averaged 40 to 45 mpg.

Looking at the long-term possibilities of electric vehicles, King County officials meet regularly with agencies and utilities in the region to review the state of technology, the projected demand on the power grid and demand management technologies that could be installed in the near future.