Story and photo by Reiko Endo
Right off Interstate-5 in Bellingham, the Market at Fairhaven stands like others along the busy traffic hub on Old Fairhaven Parkway. But unlike other stores, this has a unique parking lot.
In one area, the pavement is painted emerald green, and has a little silver box attached to a pole. The box, a "Charge Point," allows people to charge their electric cars. Although the box should be frequently visited, the green parking spot seems to be ignored by most drivers. Even though electric cars are growing in popularity, the bandwagon is not full, and the lack of visitors at the charge point proves it.
Sue Cole, Public Affairs Director at the Markets LLC, says the charging station is used less than a dozen times a week because of the small number of electric car users in the Bellingham community. She expects the number will skyrocket in the next few years.
In the near future, charging stations like the one at the Market will not be so unique. A shift from gasoline cars to electric cars is expected in the next few years.
According to Electric Drive Transportation Association, nearly 300,000 hybrid electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2009. According to the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California Berkeley, by 2030 the sales of electric vehicles will make up 24 percent of vehicles on the road.
As the forecast for electric cars began to increase, the Market at Fairhaven started the plug-in charging service when they completed the store’s remodeling in December 2009. The charging station is the first one in Bellingham and the first at a grocery store in the United States Cole says there is no cost to use the charging station. The Market decided to offer the charging station because of the greater Bellingham community's interest in sustainable technology and the large number of people who already drive hybrids.
"There is expected to be significant growth in plug-in cars in the next few years, and that raises the question—where will they plug in?" Cole says.
Electric vehicles may not be as powerful or as fuel-efficient yet, but the movement toward electric automobiles is on the horizon. As sustainable technology becomes less expensive and more common, electric vehicles could be the main source of transportation in the not-so-distant future.