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Charge up: Oregon Tech gets EV station
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Oregon Tech students check the ins-and-outs of Jim Wegat's Tesla Roadster Sport

Samantha Tipler, Oct 30, 2015 - Herald & News

Everyone needs to be inspired.

That’s what Jim Wegat said as he took a handful of Oregon Tech students on a short spin in his Tesla Roadster Sport Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a feeling you can’t describe,” Wegat said of driving the all-electric sports car that can go from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. “It’s almost as fast as falling out of a plane.”

With that adrenaline rush, Wegat hopes to pass on his love for all-electric vehicles and beefing up the electric infrastructure in the U.S.

Wegat donated an EV charging station to Oregon Institute of Technology, and the college held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for it Tuesday. The station is free to the public, running off renewable energy generated by OIT’s solar array and geothermal power plant.

Green energy

“Oregon Tech has a reputation for clean energy and really trying to be part of a broader solution. Lower carbon footprints. Be able to provide power in the modern society going forward,” OIT President Chris Maples said just before the ceremony. “It’s really kind of cool.”

“That is a perfect complement to OIT,” Wegat, an Oregon Tech graduate, said of the charging station, “to have geothermal, solar energy, and be able to provide electric vehicle charging as a service to the general public.”

Wegat worked with Sun Country Highway, a Canadian company “leading the electric vehicle movement around the world” its website says. The company offers individuals to “pay it forward,” according to an Oregon Tech press release, by sponsoring a charging station. Wegat took up that offer and asked the station go to his alma mater in Klamath Falls.

Oregon Tech grad

Wegat graduated from Oregon Tech in 2000 with a degree in laser optical engineering technology, leading him to a career in optical engineering, research, project management and product development. He is the founder of Wegat Optical Consulting.

Among his accomplishments: developing a camera-based automated painting system; controlling the light output of information display panels on flight decks in commercial aircraft; developing the Photonic Fence laser system that uses a camera to identify, target and kill mosquitoes that spread malaria; participating in design and development of telecom carrier-grade optical communication systems; developing laser-based illumination systems for Innovative Space-based Radar Antenna Technology; providing engineering support for the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite; and holding a patent for night vision imaging system compatible LED devices.

But on Wednesday, he preferred to talk about electric vehicles.

Going electric

Wegat bought his Tesla Roadster four years ago. For a time he also owned an all-electric Nissan Leaf, but now the Tesla is his sole mode of transportation.

“It’s just really, really convenient,” he said. “I get home and just plug it into the wall. Like I plug my cell phone in to the wall. That’s it.”

The Tesla can go 240 miles on one charge, though Wegat said he likes to stop and charge along the way on long trips. He drove to Klamath Falls from Portland, stopping in Mount Hood, Redmond and Bend along the way.

“Everyday running around town use, it’s 10 cents, 20 cents,” he said of the charging costs. “To charge the car completely would be about $5. On a Nissan Leaf it’s $2.”

Take a ride

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Wegat took anyone who wanted to go for a quick ride in the Tesla.

“Oh my gosh, that was so much fun,” Eric Storey said with a huge grin on his face when he emerged from the Roadster’s passenger seat. “That was ridiculous.”

As an Oregon Tech electrical engineering major, he said seeing a Tesla and having the charging station was “pretty cool stuff.”

“Previously it wasn’t really an option to have an electric vehicle,” he admitted, “but now that this is here, I’m honestly considering it.”

Oregon Tech’s charging station is the fourth in the Klamath Falls area, but the first offering high-speed charging and the only one that is free to the public. It’s the first station on Highway 97 between Bend and the California border, and the only free station within 100 miles, the Oregon Tech press release said.

“The rule of thumb is that for every charger you put in, two more people get an electric vehicle,” Wegat said with a smile, admitting he has no data supporting the phrase. “I’m hoping that might be the case. If that’s the case, that’s a pretty good way of increasing the number of people using sustainable transportation.”

Read the article at Herald & News