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Ashland is a leader in electric vehicle use

James Stephens of Ashland not only has a Tesla EV, he built himself a solar travel trailer to extend its 325-mile range for vacations.

At ElectroQuest, his 20-year-old business, he devotes himself to research and marketing electric vehicles, sustainable energy generation and heightened battery storage.

His EV passions are contagious. He has partnered with Brandon Lerda of Phoenix in converting Lerda’s classic 1939 Ford coupe to EV, with Stephens doing the electric and Lerda doing the mechanical. The car is almost road-ready.

It’s obsession like this, according to the Oregon Department of Energy, that has put the state at the halfway mark to its goal of 50,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2020 — and placed Jackson County in the Top 10 counties for EV registration, with 913 post-oil vehicles.

Jackson County has EVs all over; but the hot spot, by far, is Ashland — which, although it has only 10 percent of the county’s population, has 76 percent of its EV registrations, says Oregon DoE.

Assistant City Administrator Adam Hanks says it’s because Ashland has decades of history pioneering solar and other sustainable forms of energy, has created its own Climate Energy & Action Plan to shrink the city’s carbon footprint, and participates in the state Clean Fuels Program, receiving clean fuel credits for EV registrations and for all kilowatt sales relating to the charging of EVs.

Ashland is in the EV vanguard, adds Hanks, because of “community involvement in the Energy Action Plan. It’s got way higher than average interest in town and knowledge for doing something about climate change.

“EV is a direct way to correct fossil fuel abuse, and we have incentive programs for every rebate for owners,” he added. “We live in a valley that’s compact enough that there’s no anxiety about EV range, more types of EVs are available, and the price has gotten much more competitive in just a few years.”

Charging stations a few years ago were a big novelty, but a quick check on the internet shows them all over Ashland and beyond.

Stephens lives six blocks from the city’s four free chargers, which are next to Pony Espresso coffee house on Lithia Way, where you can grab a latte and be topped off on the super-charge in under an hour. Stephens, however, says he likes to plug in, walk home, sleep and have a “full tank” in the morning.

Stephens was always stoked on Tesla, but he says he waited until its range surpassed 300 miles, then he got on a two-year waiting list. He plans to drive it in celebrations of national Drive Electric Week, which is Sept. 14-22.

“I’ve never driven a finer automobile in my life, fossil fuel, hybrid or electric. It’s so wonderful, I just can’t describe it. I look forward to the full autonomous model, but it has to be fully regulated by the government.”

The city of Ashland’s incentives call for grants to nonprofits and businesses for workplace EV charging, says Hanks. Safeway market now has two chargers, and the city is incentivizing by offering rebates to motels, restaurants and other businesses that install charging stations, based on the number of parking spots.

Details are at www.ashland.or.us/EV.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Daily Tidings / Jamie Lusch James Stephens tows his solar trailer with a tesla.
Daily Tidings / Jamie Lusch James Stephens tows his solar trailer with a tesla.