Curbside Outtakes: Electric Drive Portland

If you like to read about cars on the internet, and you probably do if you are reading this, you know a wave of electric cars is coming. Just as some manufacturers have embraced the move to EV’s more quickly than others, so have cities around the world begun adopting to these new cars.

This is kind of a snapshot of the local EV scene in Portland Oregon. One of the things I enjoy most about Curbside Classic is the input from our community of readers from around the globe. I hope after reading this, you will let me know how your city is adapting to this new technology in the comments below.

In the USA, Portland is probably near the top in a list of cities embracing EVs. I’m not writing this as an EV driver, my ’93 Buick Regal is paid for and suits me fine at this point. But I can see myself buying a used one in 3 to 5 years as prices become more affordable. I keep noticing more and more electrics on the street every day. Charging stations are starting to pop up in more locations all over the city.

The Northwest has a history of economical green energy with the Bonneville Dam. Located on the Columbia River, about 40 miles east of Portland, this dam, along with a system of 41 others in the PNW, has provided the area with inexpensive, abundant power since 1938 through the Bonneville Power Association (BPA). People here are possibly more open to the idea of electric cars, as our electricity comes from this renewable source.

The fact that EV use is growing around here shouldn’t be a surprise. This is a Think City EV that I shot back in 2012. They are actually still quite a common site here if you keep your eyes peeled. A recent co-worker owned one and said he enjoyed it. He is totally NOT a car guy and uses it as basic city transportation, but he liked it. These cars were assembled in Elkhart Indiana from 2010 to 2012.

Portland is one of those places manufacturers send their compliance cars. We seem to get the limited availability cars that don’t make to most parts of the country. I see lots of Fiat 500e electrics and BMW i3s. The Kia Soul EV has been here for a few years, and I just saw the newest version of it on the street today. Pizza delivery guys use Chevy Spark EVs to deliver pizzas.

Surprisingly, I don’t see as many Chevy Bolts as I thought I would. They are vastly outnumbered by Nissan Leafs and Tesla Model 3s.

I remember finally seeing my first Tesla Model 3 in Portland. It was very exciting to see one in person, but now they are a common site. Especially in more affluent areas of town, Teslas, like this Model X, are everywhere.

I took my camera to Downtown Portland on a Saturday afternoon in January to see what the electric car scene was like that day. My first stop was a public charging station at the World Trade Center (not that infamous one) in the heart of the city. There I found a number of EVs charging and a couple of open chargers.

I see the Tesla above needed to use an adapter to charge at this station. I wasn’t even aware that Mitsubishi made a PHEV version of the Outlander. Some EV’s are less noticeable than others.

My walk took me through the heart of Downtown Portland and the “Pearl District” where you don’t have to look hard at all to find a variety of EV’s.

Please don’t let my photos mislead you. Even here, EVs are still only a small minority of the cars in the city. We have a long way to go before we see the end of the ICE age.

In neighborhoods across the city, it’s becoming more and more common to see all sorts of electric vehicles, including exotic ones like this BMW i8.

All over the city, charging stations are starting to appear in shopping centers and apartment complexes. The infrastructure needed to go electric is slowly, but steadily arriving. This Leaf is charging for free at a clothing store.

Because Portland is such a bicycle friendly place, it’s no wonder e-bikes are taking off here too. This “Specialized” has a mid-mounted motor and an integrated battery pack. Behind it, is a MAX electric light rail vehicle.

We put e-bikes to work too. Here we see an employee of the local bike sharing service, collect bicycles with a custom 3-wheeler that is equipped with an electric motor to help haul the heavy load.

There may be some of you out there that fear or even resent this new type of vehicle prowling our fair streets. Fear not. Since this is Portland, there will always be a few cool old cars around here for years to come. While out shooting EV’s for this post, I came across this beautiful Ford Galaxie 500.

With a little imagination, you can hear the V-8 rumble and smell the gasoline. The past was wonderful, but it looks like the future is starting to get here now. I’m ready to hop on board.