Spokane’s first electric vehicle was a trolley, purchased in the late-1880s. Created by real estate developers to entice residents into yet-to-be-developed neighborhoods, trolley lines allowed people to extend everyday life outside of the city’s downtown core. This mode of transportation quickly caught on, and by 1900 electric streetcars were the predominant mode of transportation within the city.
By 1910, more than 150 electric trolleys carried nearly 25 million riders across the booming Inland Northwest. Popularity of the trolleys began to wane with the arrival of gas-powered automobiles, and by the 1920s private cars and buses became the favored mode of transport for most Spokanites, due in large part to the freedom of travel (streetcars were tethered by tracks beneath and electric lines above). The last electric trolley was retired in 1936, but in the late ’50s a WWP engineer named Robert Sewell built an experimental all-electric ride from a converted sedan. Public interest was greater than anyone expected and prompted serious consideration to the future of the electric car as an industry.
Today more than 40 models of electric vehicles exist, both all-electric and plug-in hybrid, with many more models set to enter the market. These vehicles boast greatly reduced average maintenance and fuel costs when compared to standard internal combustion engines, emit zero tailpipe emissions and can achieve full charges conveniently overnight, or within 20 minutes when using public DC fast chargers. Experts predict that within the next four years, 10-minute fast charge times will be a reality. Recent introductions of the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla model 3 make all-electric sedans with over 200 mile driving ranges available to the mass market. At the same time, plug-in hybrid EVs like the Chevy Volt allow electric driving for most days with longer ranges available from the backup gas engine.
About 1,200 electric vehicles currently operate within Avista’s Washington state service territory and numbers are increasing by about 30% each year. These cars of the future are sharing the road with us right now. Avista is busy installing public fast charging, as well as workspace and residential charging stations, throughout the region to help support early adoption. When we better understand how to integrate EVs in the grid of the future, all customers benefit. Apps like PlugShare aggregate charging locations throughout the US, making worry over long-range road trips a thing of the past.