News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Charging up in Sisters to get easier

Laura, a reader and recent transplant from Portland, was frustrated by the dearth of EV (electric vehicle) charging stations in Sisters. While she took the time to let The Nugget know of her experiences in recharging while shopping, there is ample anecdotal evidence of similar disappointments from shoppers and diners.

Pull into Bi-Mart or Ray’s and it’s easy to assume that Sisters identifies more with pickups and SUVs than EV or hybrid vehicles. Park at Ace or Hoyt’s and you’ll find that Sisters drivers are clearly more at home in that Chevy, Dodge, or Ford truck, just as dad or grandpa drove all those years ago.

Given Sisters’ rural locale and the number of farmers and ranchers who proliferate Sisters Country, it’s understandable that drivers here would favor the heftier, multi-purpose usefulness of a light-duty truck or roomy SUV. Years running, pickups are the best-selling passenger vehicles in America with Ford’s F-150 perennially at the top of the sales rankings, followed this year by Dodge Ram and the Chevrolet Silverado. In 2021 these models sold a combined 1.4 million vehicles. Pickups held the number 11 and 12 spots too.

For the first time, an all-electric car, the Tesla Model Y, made Car and Driver magazine’s list, coming in at number 19. That list looks a lot like Sisters — but experts say that’s all going to change. The year 2022 could be the year the EV sales take off. More than a dozen new models are expected to launch, adding to 20 already on the market in 2020. IHS Markit expects more than 100 models to offer a battery electric option in 2025. EV share could more than triple, from 1.8 percent of U.S. registrations last year to 9 percent in 2025 and 15 percent in 2030.

Toyota is particularly bullish: EV sales will grow to as high as one in every six vehicles by 2030, predicts Toyota Motor North America. That would represent greater volume than all of the Japanese company’s Lexus division in the U.S. Over at Ford you can get in line — a very long line — for the new 2022 F-150 Lightning, an all-electric pickup. Not your father’s truck to be sure.

Tradition and legacy aside, Sisters will find itself in the gravitational pull to EV. Will it be ready? Will there be enough juice to charge the forecasted growing number of such cars and convenience drivers like Laura? City Manager Cory Misley says yes.

The vast majority of EVs will be charged at home. That fact itself creates a need for Sisters’ infrastructure planners to get ready for the added electrical demand. Tourists, a major component of our economy, and shoppers from nearby communities like Camp Sherman and Black Butte, will also rely on Sisters to get them juiced up from time to time.

Every EV comes with a built-in charging cord enabling it to connect to standard 110-volt household current. Thus, any Sisters Country campground or RV park with electric hook up will get you juice to recharge, albeit slowly — in the range of 2 to 6 MRH (miles range per hour), essentially a trickle charge.

Right now, EV owners can get a charge at FivePine Lodge & Conference Center or at Sisters Inn & Suites, if they are guests. Mainline Station has a single “pump” with two “hoses,” one for Level 2 (slow charging – 14-35 MRH) at around $4 per session and the other for Level 3 (fast charging – 100 MRH) roughly $7.50.

Misley says that’s all about to change in April when Sisters Library, at their expense, will install two stations at their entry, each with two Level 2 chargers, four cars at a time in all. The City will provide the electricity and users will be able to charge for free.

“That’s how we anticipate starting,” Misley said. “We will evaluate that over time as we gauge usage.”

He went on to say, “We need to revisit the whole parking situation now that we have completed the Comprehensive Plan. It’s time to update the parking plan with the new variables like EV charging, the Adams Streetscape Design, and continuing growth.”

Executive Director of Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce Judy Trego is emphatic that Sisters needs more EV charging.

“It’s a community asset,” she said. “It’s essential for sustainable tourism.”

This was echoed by several merchants and purveyors The Nugget asked randomly.

Trego would like to see EV charging closer to shopping and thinks a station right outside her doors at the Visitor Center would be ideal.

“We really need a Super Charger too,” she said.

That is the Tesla brand rapid charger that gets one of their cars a 200-mile charge in 15 minutes — but that can only be connected to a Tesla.

Misley, seeing more charging units as inevitable, is discouraged by the lack of ready grants from ODOT or other State agencies. Most of those are going to electrify US 97 and I-5. What few there are presently take years to realize.


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