Portland ‘electrifies’ during weeklong events promoting fuel saving vehicles
Portland, Ore.—The week of July 27 was filled with a myriad of electric vehicle venues appropriate for Portland. Known for being one of the world’s most “green” cities, the environmentally conscious Rose City has been a leader in promoting alternative-fueled vehicles, as well as supplying an infrastructure to support those cars and trucks.
The “electric” week began Monday evening with the world debut of the EnLighten system from Connected Signals that is now available in select BMW models, including the new i8 plug-in luxury hybrid. Christian Schmid, a senior advanced technology engineer at BMW, and Matthew Ginsberg, EnLighten CEO, explained to assembled media and industry guests how the new BMW App system allows drivers to electronically receive data about when a green light will turn red, wait time for red lights to turn green, as well as other traffic-related data.
Working with municipalities around the world, Connected Signals has developed the sophisticated system that BMW said reduces driver distraction and increases safety with fewer accidents at intersections. Ginsberg said improved fuel economy has also been proven using the system. The BMW App is currently available in Eugene and Portland, Ore., as well as Salt Lake City, Utah, with dozens of additional U.S. cities and others worldwide coming on board in the near future.
Automotive journalists tested the system on the $150,000 BMW i8 during Tuesday’s Drive Revolution when 16 electric, hybrid, diesel, and fuel-cell vehicles were each tested on Portland streets by writers from British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. The app worked well in predicting changing lights with an indicator on the center console.
During Drive Revolution, an annual event organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), journalists tested and voted on 16 total 2015 and 2016 models in three categories: Electric Vehicles, Hybrids, and Green Luxury Vehicles. The event was held in conjunction Oregon’s EV Roadmap conference staged over three days at the downtown Portland General Electric (PGE) headquarters and the World Trade Center plaza.
Entries in Drive Revolution included models from Acura, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen. All entries were eligible to win the Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year award.
The Volkswagen e-Golf was selected by journalists to receive the top honor in the Electric Vehicle category. “The e-Golf is attractive and fun,” said Bengt Halvorson, Drive Revolution co-chair. “This is a useful car that can convert people who hadn’t even thought about electric cars in EV enthusiasts.”
With several hybrids in the competition, the 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Limited was voted the best in the category. “This Acura offers a hybrid drivetrain with all-wheel-drive and sport package,” said Nik Miles, NWAPA president. “To me, that represents the state of the art in both performance and hybrid technology.”
The winner of the Green Luxury award was the Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-in Hybrid, priced just over $114,000. “Luxury is synonymous with Mercedes-Benz, and the new plug-in fully lives up to the reputation of the marquee,” said Jeff Zurschmeide, event co-chair.
The new 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan was also tested during Drive Revolution and was well received by journalists for its power, fit and finish, overall handling, advanced technology, and 312-mile projected driving range. As a result, the $57,500 Mirai was named the Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year by NWAPA members. Presently available only in California, with expected deliveries in October, additional markets will be opened next year with Portland expected to be a target market.
Journalists and vehicle manufacturers also attended the grand re-opening of Electric Avenue on July 28, the largest lineup of electric vehicle charging stations in downtown Portland. Hundreds of city officials, PGE employees, and citizens attended the event. “We’re pleased that our EV driving customers and visitors have a place to charge up as they visit downtown Portland,” said Jim Piro, PGE president and CEO. “Oregonians are committed to sustainable practices, and they are excited by the possibilities offered by electric transportation.”
Originally located on the campus of Portland State University (PSU) near downtown, Electric Avenue first opened in 2011. Due to PSU building expansion, Electric Avenue was expanded and moved to the PGE and World Trade Center site on Southwest Salmon Street. The six charging stations are free courtesy of the World Trade Center/Portland, but vehicles do have to pay to park at the standard city rate of $1.60/hour.
PGE said more than 4,000 local electric vehicle drivers have access to the new Electric Avenue, part of a regional effort to offer sustainable transportation options that include electric-powered light rail trains, buses, streetcars, and an aerial tram.
The “electric” week continued with hundreds of speakers and guests from around the world attending sessions that included everything EV at Oregon’s EV Roadmap conference held at the World Trade Center.
Originally founded by PGE and PSU, the event is now produced by DriveOregon.org and is designed to inform attendees about EV technologies, municipal infrastructures for charging stations, electric vehicle displays, EV trends, used car market for EVs, political issues relating to EVs, integrated electric mobility, and more. Keynote speaker for the conference was Ola Elvestuen, a member of the parliament in Norway and chair of the Energy & Environment committee.