Time to wine down the Oregon Electric Byway
By Gaby Diaz
Emerging Leaders Board
I remember driving west into the Columbia River Gorge for the first time and having to pull over because I was so overwhelmed by the sight. The sun was setting, and the river sparkled and danced its way in between the steep walls of massive green trees. As the valley twisted left, it appeared to go straight on to the ocean. I knew I had moved somewhere special after that unforgettable moment.
In the seven years since that drive from Colorado to Oregon, I’ve been fortunate enough to explore other iconic places such as the Wallowa Mountains, Crater Lake, and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. Being able to access these public lands is essential to me, and without owning a car, it can be challenging. Luckily, Oregon recognizes the value of getting outside and recreating and has taken the lead on creating sustainable transportation options across the state, especially with electric vehicles, also known as EVs or electric cars.
Last month, I had the opportunity to learn more about electric cars in Oregon and their role in connecting communities, local businesses, and climate change mitigation. Portland hosts one of the largest electric-car conferences in the country, called the EV Roadmap. The conference highlights ‘electric and smart mobility.’
Folks from all over the world attend this conference to learn about how their businesses, organizations, and transportation infrastructure can incorporate electric cars and transition from a fossil-fuel car market to a renewable one. In true Oregon fashion, I got to experience an EV wine tour and learn about the future of sustainable transportation.
Our wine tour started on Electric Avenue in downtown Portland, a charging station site established by PGE at the base of the World Trade Center. We were greeted by Travel Oregon’s destination development team, who gave us the low-down on electric cars.
Compared to standard gas-guzzling vehicles, electric cars are cheaper to own, easy to maintain, produce zero tailpipe emissions, and are becoming more efficient each year. The BYD bus we traveled on that day could hold a 145 mile charge – that’s a hearty battery!
OREGON ELECTRIC BYWAY
The real challenge is the infrastructure. Within the Portland-metro area alone there are over 400 charging stations, and across the state there are over 1,000 stations. A good chunk of these dot the Oregon Electric Byway. The byway is a network of charging stations that stretch over 2,200 miles of western Oregon and are conveniently located at hotels, breweries, wineries, and restaurants, so while you wait for your car to charge, you can enjoy all that place has to offer.
We did a portion of the Oregon Electric Byway called the Wine Country Byway. Our first stop was Stoller Vineyards in Dayton, the first winery in the country certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold. The wine samples and cheese were fabulous and the view of Mt. Hood was incredible. Stoller is one of ten wineries on the themed byway that are committed to promoting sustainable transportation and business practices.
We later stopped at Winderlea in Dundee, which was the first winery to install an EV charging station in the state. Owners Bill Sweat and Donna Morris greeted us and spoke about why they wanted to be a part of the Wine Country Byway. It started with visionary Portland architect Ernie Munch, who lead the city in transitioning to sustainable infrastructure and architecture. A friend of Sweat and Morris, Munch encouraged them to develop their winery in the same vein.
“It was the right thing to do,” Sweat said. They also received an incentive from Ecotrust, a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental well-being, to help build solar panels on the property. The monetary support covered part of the cost to install an electric-car charging station, and it provided a head start for the rest of the business’ EV infrastructure.
Having a charging station at their business also provided Sweat and Morris the opportunity to tap into EV marketing across the state and country. You can find their information on the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Electric Byways, and Tesla websites.
As we made our way back to Portland, I couldn’t help but think that electric carss have an essential role in our transportation future. As we grow in population, so does the need to source renewable energy and find creative solutions that benefit us and the planet. Electric cars are a part of that solution, and as a state, we have an opportunity to show the rest of the world how it’s done.
Gaby serves as a member of Oregon Environmental Council’s Emerging Leaders Board. She is also the Office and Event Manager for Oregon Wild where she works to bring people together over the love of wildlife and wild places. Outside of the office you’ll find Gaby making jewelry, watching a movie at the Hollywood Theatre, or out on the trail with her dog Lacey.