Electric cars may someday rule the road. It won't happen if there aren't enough places for them to plug in.
But who should pay for the charging stations?
Both Pacific Power and Portland General Electric have proposals before Oregon's Public Utility Commission that would allow them to pass the cost of building about a half a dozen charging stations apiece to their ratepayers.
They may only be pilot programs, but it's the wrong model. It's wrong for ratepayers to underwrite the expansion of the monopoly that electrical utilities already have to include charging stations. If the two investor-owned utilities want to plunge into the charging market, they should come up with the money themselves just like any other business.
The right model of charging stations may not be like the gas station. Even with fast chargers, it can take a half an hour to fully recharge a car battery. It makes more sense to have people recharge where they park — at home, while shopping or at work. There's still a need for highway charging stations for people making longer trips.
Electric vehicles and charging stations are a fledgling industry. Oregon should be encouraging innovation, competition and customer choice. It doesn't do that by giving utilities the ability to use their ratepayers to squeeze out the competition. How is another charging business supposed to compete?
Some ratepayers might be happy to support electric vehicles. But it's not fair to other ratepayers to compel them to pay to grow a utility's monopoly.