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In the shadow of the greenest office building in the world along a busy street destined for bus rapid transit, Capitol Hill adds an electric vehicle charging station

(Image: Electrify America)

By Jethro Swain

Already home to the greenest office building in the world and still set to be transformed by 2024 into a transportation corridor optimized for public bus transit, Seattle’s efforts to add more infrastructure for electric cars are driving a new construction project in the surface parking lot of a Capitol Hill bank.

Electrify America, a nationwide electric vehicle charging station company, is constructing a new Seattle charging station in Capitol Hill at 1300 E Madison St in the parking lot of the Bank of America branch currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Madison station is projected to open this summer, Electrify America told CHS, and it will have four DC (direct current) fast chargers that can charge capable vehicles at up to 150kW. Electrify America stations normally have at least one (often two) CCS and one CCS-CHAdeMO style chargers, the two of which together cover almost all types of electric vehicles. Many of their chargers in metropolitan areas, including the majority of the ones around Seattle, also include a level 2 charger.

Electrify America is an expanding company that has 556 live locations across the country with 143 more coming soon, according to their website. They currently have two fast charging locations open in the city of Seattle, and more than 300 open stations across the state of Washington. Electrify America is planning on building six other stations in the city of Seattle, including a few near downtown including one in Ballard, the U-District, and Queen Anne, to go along with the Capitol Hill station.

The parking lot off E Madison, where the charging station has been approved by the City of Seattle and welcomed by Bank of America, is currently unused by customers and the construction for the charging stations is underway.

The stations will be placed in the middle of the parking lot, and there is an entrance to the lot from both E Pike and E Madison.

Electrify America’s expansion into the center of Seattle highlights Seattle’s continued push to encourage electric vehicles and the need for a stable infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations. The priority of Electrify America, according to them, is to expand access to fast charging in metro areas and along major highway routes. They also put their resources into a “future-proof” network by deploying exclusively 150kW and 350kW chargers, which are the fastest speeds available currently.


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The busy construction site (Image: CHS)

While the installation, in the end, is basically a set of large plugins for new electric cars, the location of these chargers is auspicious. Just up E Madison, the super green Bullitt Center rises with its massive solar arrays, zero-waste features, and roster of environmentally-friendly tenants like environmental media nonprofit Grist — and Community Development Financial Institution and B Corporation-formed Beneficial State Bank which recently moved in and added a new ATM to the front of the center.

The solar-powered, zero-waste Bullitt Center debuted above E Madison and 15th Ave in 2013 bringing to fruition the dream of the Bullitt Foundation and Earth Day founder Dennis Hayes to create a zero waste office building in the core of Seattle.

While the Bullitt Center hasn’t exactly sprouted a green neighborhood around it, there are other signs of growth. At 13th and Pike, the super green Solis apartment building is built to Passive House standards — though it also comes with underground parking.

The charging center’s location is also interesting given the near future of E Madison. By 2024 and with $134 million of construction, the RapidRide G bus line is planned to serve the corridor’s 2.3-mile, 10-station route and connect the waterfront through First Hill and Capitol Hill to Madison Valley.

Electrify America says its site selection takes into account a number of criteria, including location accessibility, visibility, current and projected EV (electric vehicle) sales in the area, and driving patterns, among many others. While Electrify America looks to expand their infrastructure into high traffic areas, there are other organizations that prioritize their resources for fast charging elsewhere, including Seattle City Hall.

As Seattle City Light generates and delivers electricity it is also trying to do more to provide affordable energy solutions to communities that don’t get as much attention from for-profit companies.

Victor Couto, the program manager for the SCL Public Fast Chargers campaign, says he and his team are in charge of deciding where the city should build electric vehicle charging stations based on need and accessibility.

“We’re looking at the suburb’s that we serve, where there’s more driving,” said Couto on the areas SCL is planning the next stations. “Part of the goal is to fill gaps where there isn’t charging infrastructure.” Couto explained that SCL uses their resources to provide lower income and underrepresented communities with public charging stations. “We want them to know that charging is accessible and that this is possible. If you have a vehicle like this you can charge it in this area,” said Couto.

In 2019, SCL proposed a charging station that would be installed on Broadway and E Denny Way near Capitol Hill Station but faced community opposition.

“We hosted a town hall and met with the public, and it seemed pretty clear that the community felt that that site selection on Broadway was not preferred and the community preferred less traffic”, said Couto.

A major factor in the opposition was bikes — a new charging station on Broadway would effectively block the connection of the street’s bike lanes to the busy transit station and make any northward expansion of the lanes on the busy street impossible. Making that kind of decision at a public transit station in favor of relatively expensive, typically brand new cars over bikes angered many. Meanwhile, there is no plan to expand the Broadway bikeway.

While SCL heard plenty of negative feedback from the community about the Broadway location, they say they also heard a healthy amount of constructive feedback.

“We heard a lot about other locations that would serve the Capitol Hill area,” said Couto. SCL had a lot of challenges in finding a site that would work in Capitol Hill, but they eventually ended up finding a good replacement — also not far from E Madison.

The Madison Miller charging station, located on E Olive St, between 21st and 22nd Avenues, is now SCL’s most used in terms of KW/hour station out of their total 6 current locations. SCL is looking to reach a total of 26 fast chargers in the Seattle area.

UPDATES: This report has been updated to to clarify the number of locations and fast chargers planned by the city.


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James T.
James T.
1 month ago

Only the elite get to enjoy these things as homeless die on the streets

Come on right now
Come on right now
1 month ago

We’re seeing electricity challenges around the country (see Texas in recent weeks, and several areas in CA planned shutdowns over last few years). I’m not clear how the “grid” handles a massive shift from gas to electric vehicles.

Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
1 month ago

City light’s demand continues to fall with increased efficiency even as they invest in new substations like the one on Denny. This is a factor in their EV promotion policy.

Caphiller
Caphiller
1 month ago

Darn, I was hoping this would be an announcement of plans to develop a building on top of that parking lot.

dave
dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Caphiller

Yeah I’d much rather see a new apartment building go up there.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

You missed that a 9 story CLT building from community roots is going up right around there too!

Neighbor
Neighbor
1 month ago

There’s already a pair at 2111 E Olive, are they by the same company? I’m surprised they’re not mentioned.

jseattle
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Neighbor

They are featured at the conclusion of the report Read again