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Whidbey Island prepares for electric cars

Fong Ng, co-owner of China City in Oak Harbor, stands next to a charging station for electric cars that was installed in front of the popular restaurant.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Fong Ng, co-owner of China City in Oak Harbor, stands next to a charging station for electric cars that was installed in front of the popular restaurant.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Islanders are starting to get a charge out of an emerging technology.

A couple of businesses across the island are busy installing the initial charging stations and town leaders are designing regulations to accommodate electric cars.

Coupeville and Langley are considering regulations that would allow charging stations within town limits while Oak Harbor is weeks away from installing two electric vehicle chargers on Pioneer Way. At least two Whidbey businesses have installed such stations, hoping that the demand for electric vehicles will increase.

Jack Ng, owner of China City in Oak Harbor, installed two outlets for vehicles last year and hopes to soon install more at his location in Freeland. Whidbey Telecom also has a charging station at its new electronics store and coffee shop in Freeland.

Even though Ng doesn’t currently see many electric cars on the road, he predicts numbers will increase. It’s a good marketing strategy to be one of the first businesses on Whidbey Island to accommodate those cars.

“A lot of people are going to have electric cars in a couple of years,” Ng said. He noted that it takes between a half hour for the fast charge and up to 12 hours for a regular charge.

Currently, people can recharge their vehicles for free. However, when demand increases in the future, Ng said it may cost someone several dollars to charge their car at such a station. Still, it will easily beat the price of gasoline.

As for Oak Harbor, project manager Larry Cort said two charging stations are expected to be installed in the next few weeks near the corner of Dock Street and Pioneer Way. The stations are part of the Pioneer Way project, which converted the downtown thoroughfare into a one-way street.

“One of the keystones for the design of Pioneer Way is to make it as green as possible,” Cort said.

It cost Oak Harbor just over $12,000 to pay for the two units.

Cort, too, realizes not many people are currently able to use the electric charging stations, but he’s confident they will get more use as electric-powered cars become more common.

“We also know it’s an emerging technology, so it will take a while for them to get full use,” Cort said.

Towns up and down Whidbey Island are considering laws that make it easier for electric-powered cars to travel on the roads.

Coupeville recently adopted a new ordinance allowing for electric golf carts to travel on its roads. Langley and Island County also hope to join the small number of jurisdictions throughout the state to allow residents to use the small vehicles.

The Coupeville Town Council is also considering an ordinance allowing the Central Whidbey town to develop the infrastructure necessary to accommodate electric vehicles. The proposed ordinance will allow for electric vehicle charging stations through all its zoning districts, including residential areas.

The Langley City Council passed an ordinance Jan. 25 permitting electric vehicle charging stations in the South Whidbey Island municipality.

Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said during a recent Coupeville Town Council meeting that the ordinance, along with the recently enacted golf cart zone, is part of a move toward electricity and away from oil. He said the town currently doesn’t have any prohibition against charging stations, but officials need to address it to head off any problems.

The Coupeville council discussed a draft of the proposed ordinance and they could decide on the regulations at its February meeting.

 

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