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The Associated Press June 1, 2011, 2:39PM ET

Electric car fast-chargers coming to I-5 in Ore.

A series of fast-charging stations for electric cars will be installed this year along Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon to become one of the first links in a Green Highway stretching down the West Coast from Canada to Mexico.

The Oregon Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that AeroVironment has been chosen to build eight level-3 DC fast-charging stations between Eugene and the California border under a $700,000 federal stimulus grant. The Monrovia, Calif.-based company manufactures unmanned aircraft and industrial charging stations for electric forklifts and aircraft tenders.

AeroVironment Vice President Kristen Helsel said the company hopes to start building by the end of summer and have the charging stations up and running before the end of December.

Though fewer than 50 electric cars are driving around Oregon, the installation of fast-charging stations will build acceptance for electric vehicles by making it possible for people to take trips beyond the typical range of 100 miles, said John MacArthur, a project manager at Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium in Portland.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "We're in this kind of leading edge of electrification."

The AeroVironment fast-charging stations are separate from the EV Project, a partnership between the federal government and ECOtality of San Francisco, which is working on installing 14,000 charging stations in six states and the District of Columbia, including Oregon, Washington and California.

Level 1 car chargers use 110 volts, like a regular home outlet, and will charge a vehicle overnight. Level 2 uses 240 volts, like a home dryer or range, and will charge a car in three or four hours. Level 3 uses 480 volts and can take a Nissan Leaf's 45 kilowatt battery from a 20 percent charge to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes, the company said.

It uses a universal connection on a cable that plugs into the car. The cost of using one of the chargers has not been set yet, said Helsel.

The fast-charging stations will be spaced 30 miles apart and located within a quarter mile of the interstate in places such as convenience stores and gas stations, still to be chosen, where a driver can find a rest room and other amenities, said project director Art James of ODOT.

The governors of Oregon, Washington and California signed an agreement last year to create a Green Highway corridor so people with electric cars could eventually drive from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego, James said.

The nation's first publicly accessible level 3 fast-charging station is in Oregon, said MacArthur. Installed by Portland General Electric, it is located in the basement of the World Trade Center in Portland.

The EV Project is installing about 1,000 level 2 charges chargers and a few fast-chargers in the Willamette Valley between Eugene and Portland, said MacArthur. By 2012, fast-chargers should start showing up on the Oregon Coast, in the Cascades and along Interstate 84, he said.

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