Plugged In: electric vehicles can recharge in downtown Camas

Former bike shop owner installs two EV chargers on N.E. Fifth Ave.

A SemaConnect EV charger sits at 403 N.E. Fifth Ave., in Camas.

Electric vehicle (EV) drivers living, working and visiting Camas-Washougal got some good news this week — charging their vehicles in East Clark County just got a lot easier.

Ed Fischer, the former owner of the Camas Bike & Sport shop at 403 N.E. Fifth Ave., in downtown Camas, installed two SemaConnect EV charging stations outside the bike shop on Wednesday, June 30.

The two plug-in stations represent the only public EV chargers between 192nd Avenue in Vancouver and Skamania Lodge, 28 miles east of Washougal in the Columbia River Gorge.

Fischer, who drives a plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, said he was surprised by the lack of EV chargers in Camas-Washougal considering that one-third of registered EV users in Clark County call Camas home.

Downtown Camas used to have a Blink EV charger next to the Camas Public Library and the charging station was popular enough that local EV drivers formed a local text chain to alert each other when the station opened up throughout the day. The Blink station, which went in using state funds, had its share of problems over the years, former Camas Mayor Shannon Turk told the Post-Record in November 2019, after city officials posted an “out of order” sign on the charger.

Fischer, who sold his Camas bike shop to new owners Jeff Cary and Pete Clagett in 2019, but retained ownership of the Fifth Avenue building, said he had been searching for a way to turn the building’s eastern parking lot area into something more community friendly. He thought about putting food carts in the space, but the parking lot’s configuration — and a drive-up ATM leased to iQ Credit Union — made the food court idea more challenging.

Instead, Fischer decided to capitalize on the fact that the space, which had once contained drive-up vacuum tubes connected to the former bank that was in the 403 N.E. Fifth Ave. building before the bike shop.

The vacuum bank tube stations were long gone, but the spaces still had a power connection to the building, as well as a covered area to protect vehicles and drivers from the elements. For Fischer, it seems like the ideal spot to put in EV chargers.

“Now, people can come to downtown Camas, charge their vehicle and they have places to go. They can get something to eat, see a movie or shop.”

The EV chargers may also be a selling point for the nearby Camas Hotel, Fischer said, since EV drivers looking for a place to stay in Camas-Washougal would need to charge up before heading home or exploring the region.

The SemaConnect chargers allow drivers to connect via the PlugShare app, but — unlike other EV charging stations — do not require users to be part of a SemaConnect membership or network.

“(With PlugShare), EV drivers can easily start a charging session through the most popular app without any restrictions,” SemaConnect states.

EV users can pay for their charging session at the SemaConnect chargers through the company’s own app or website, by dialing the number on the charger, using a SemaConnect card or through the PlugShare or ChargeHub apps on their smartphones.

It will cost EV drivers $1.50 an hour to juice up their vehicles at the new downtown Camas charging stations, and the SemaConnect machines will alert users when their vehicle is fully charged. That way, Fischer said, users can move their vehicle to another spot — not getting charged $1.50 an hour for power they’re not using and opening the charger up for another EV driver in need of a charge.

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular in Washington. The state is one of the top five for EV registrations, according to the federal government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, which shows more than 50,500 EVs registered in Washington state and nearly 23,000 registered in Oregon. The top states for EVs are California (425,000), Florida (58,000) and Texas (52,000).

Fischer, a commercial real estate broker who also is a representative for SemaConnect chargers, said he can assist other local business owners interested in installing EV charging stations.

To learn more about the EV chargers, visit semacon nect.com To inquire about installing a SemaConnect charger, call Fischer at 360-281-1394.