PESHASTIN — You’re cruising east on Highway 2 this spring in your brand new electric-powered Nissan Leaf and the charge meter begins to dip. What do you do?
If you’re in the Peshastin area, pull into Icicle Ridge Winery, plug in for a charge, take a tour and savor a leisurely glass of Cabernet Sauvignon ice wine.
The winery is one of six area businesses or public centers hoping to plug into the tourism potential of a state plan to make Interstate 5 and part of Highway 2 friendly for electric cars.
The others are:
• Stevens Pass Ski Area
• Sleeping Lady Resort, Leavenworth
• Springhill Suites by Marriott, Wenatchee
• Wenatchee Convention Center
• Town Toyota Center
“It’s a very practical business decision we hope will be part of the state’s forward-thinking approach to get green technology going,” Icicle Ridge winemaker Don Wood said Wednesday.
The businesses will install 240-volt “Level II” charging stations capable of topping off an electric car’s battery in a couple of hours. A full charge would take about four hours.
The winery has tentative plans for an even faster charging station in the future.
“The opportunity to be one of the first businesses in Washington to embrace electric vehicles sounds exciting to us,” Wood said, adding that the typical Seattle resident who owns an electric or hybrid-electric car may well be a wine lover, too.
The charger will be installed by April at a cost of between $2,000 and $4,000, funded entirely by the winery, he said. The state departments of Commerce and Transportation are teaming up this year to spend $1.32 million in federal stimulus funds to create the “Electric Highway.”
The state will partner with private companies to install fast-charging stations every 40 to 60 miles along the I-5 corridor from the Canadian border south to Oregon.
A fast-charge can boost battery power from zero to 80 percent in about 20 minutes.
The state announced Wednesday that it will use $200,000 of those funds to install two or three charging stations along the Highway 2 “scenic byway” between Seattle and Stevens Pass.
This will give electric car owners a route to tourism and recreation destinations in the heart of North Central Washington.
Local businesses have been eager to tap the momentum, said Ron Johnston-Rodriguez, economic development director for the Port of Chelan County.
“What we’re hearing is that this is the first national scenic byway to be electrified,” said Johnston-Rodriguez. “It’s one of the best examples so far of a tourism destination organizing itself around the attraction of electric vehicle driving.”
Most of the private businesses that have committed to install charging stations will pay for them, he said. Stevens Pass is getting some stimulus funding to pay for the equipment.
Wenatchee Mayor Dennis Johnson said the convention center already has a high-voltage outlet system near its rear parking lot that will be converted at low cost.
The city is seeking grant funding and donations to help cover the cost, he said.
The Town Toyota Center governing board will decide how to fund the arena’s planned charging station, the mayor said.
Johnston-Rodriguez said he’s hopeful that the state’s stations along Highway 2 and the six local stations will be functioning before the spring/summer tourist season.
Plans to pitch the area as an electric-car friendly tourism and investment destination are in the works, he said.
“This is robust with economic and entrepreneurial opportunities at many levels,” he said. “We need to be alert and creative about how we can take advantage.”
The state’s efforts coincide with automakers’ first efforts to mass-produce all-electric cars.
The Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and Ford Focus electric or hybrid-electric cars hit the market late last year.
None are currently available to view at local dealerships, but can be viewed and preordered or reserved on dealer websites.
Christine Pratt: 665-1173