Forest Service charging up around Central Oregon

Electric car charging stations added in Bend, Sisters, Redmond and Prineville

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Published Apr 15, 2014 at 12:01AM

U.S. Forest Service workers have three times as many places to juice up electric cars around Central Oregon than they did in spring 2013.

The Forest Service now has nine charging stations at locations in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Sisters, said Jean Nelson-Dean, a Forest Service spokeswoman.

A year ago, there were three, all at the Deschutes National Forest headquarters on Deschutes Market Road in northeast Bend. Since then, two charging stations have been installed at the Redmond Air Center, and one each at the Sisters Ranger District Office, the Ochoco National Forest headquarters in Prineville, and at agency warehouses in Bend and Prineville.

“With the increase in charging stations, it certainly causes the increase in use of the electric vehicles,” Nelson-Dean said.

The charging stations serve Forest Service vehicles only, Nelson-Dean said, and are not available to the public.

So far, the Deschutes National Forest fleet has three fully electric cars, and the Ochoco National Forest fleet has one hybrid car, capable of being plugged in to recharge, but Nelson-Dean said there will eventually be more.

The continuing addition of electric charging stations, and electric cars, on the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests comes in response to a call by President Barack Obama in 2011 for changes to federal vehicle fleets. By the end of next year, all new light-duty federal vehicles must use alternative fuels.

The Forest Service has plans for more electric-car charging stations in Central Oregon, at the new welcome station planned for the Cascade Lakes Highway near Bend and the new Crescent Ranger District Office planned for Crescent, Nelson-Dean said. Construction on the welcome station should start later this year and be done by the end of the year.

Holly Jewkes, district ranger in Crescent, said she hopes construction of the new office will start this summer and be done late next year. Once the office has a charging station, she said, employees will likely be more inclined to use the electric cars, particularly when driving to Bend or making similar trips.

“It will give them the chance to come down from Bend or Prineville and be comfortable (about) getting back,” she said.

Crescent is about 50 miles south of Bend. Workers who have used the electric cars available so far have determined that’s about the range of the cars, Nelson-Dean said.

The electric cars have proved ideal for driving from city to city, she said, but workers rely on hybrid, gas or diesel vehicles for going deep into the forest — where there are no charging stations.

“Obviously, going into the field sometimes might not be appropriate (for the electric cars),” Nelson-Dean said. “We go some long distances.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com