Is Sisters keeping up with the growing demand for electric vehicles?

For the 98 percent of us not driving electric vehicles (EV), it’s of little interest if, or where, in Sisters one can get a charge. On the other hand, for the thousands of EV drivers who travel through town monthly, the need to know has more significance. And for tourists, who are vital to the local economy, being able to get a charge can literally be the difference of choosing Sisters or another destination.

Currently neither Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce nor the City inform would-be travelers with charging options. Travel Oregon, the State’s official tourism authority lists only Mainline Station in Sisters.

It’s hard not to say Tesla when thinking EV. However, virtually every auto manufacturer, domestic and foreign, makes such vehicles for the U.S. market. Tesla, the visionary global leader in battery-powered autos, also knew that no matter how cutting edge their vehicles might be, there was no market without “filling” stations. Consequently, they built and maintain nearly 1,000 stations that in some “super charger” locations will charge a Tesla enough in just 15 minutes to go as far as 200 miles.

One Tesla station is located at FivePine, with two publicly available connectors. The other, for guests only, is at Black Butte. Both charge per kilowatt hour collected by the built-in system, for which a registered account is required. You can’t just roll into FivePine and say “fill ‘er up.” Neither location are “super chargers.”

Tesla, somewhat like Apple computers, has its own connecting cables that do not play well with the other brands. Yes, you can use a Tesla station, but you’ll need to purchase an adapter for cars other than Tesla. More critically, even with an adapter you cannot get a “super charge,” requiring your non-Tesla to hook up for several hours, as many as 16 or 20.

The most visible public charging station is at Mainline Station (McDonald’s and Chevron). There you can get Level 2 charging, about 14-35 mrh (miles range per hour) costing $4 per session or a Level 3 charging yielding about 100 mrh for $7.50 a charge for any brand.

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 hookup will get you juice to recharge, albeit slowly — in the range of 2 to 6 mrh — essentially a trickle charge.

Employers in Sisters are getting in on the charging act as a recruiting incentive and employee perk. Among them are Laird Superfoods with two Level 2 chargers, and Personalized & Compounded Nutrients which provides employees a single Level 2 port. Similarly, Sisters Inn & Suites makes its Level 2 charger available for guests as being good for business.

EV sales in the U.S. are expected to grow from 1.4 million units in 2020 to 6.9 million in 2025, according to London-based Frost & Sullivan, a prominent global forecaster. That’s a 393 percent increase in five short years. Oregon is a trend-leader in electric vehicles, meaning Sisters will necessarily have to increase its availability of chargers.

Environmental activist Scott Bowler, a resident of Sisters and Oregon National Desert Association’s 2020 Conservationist of the Year, hopes the City will take into account the growth of electric vehicles and the need for more charging stations in its developing Comprehensive Plan. Bowler would like to see free charging stations at City Hall, Sisters Library, and Sisters High School, for starters.