Communities getting charged up over electric car stations
Electric-car charging stations are available at Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles near the food-court entrance. | Jennifer Johnson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 19, 2012 8:38AM
PARK RIDGE — Will stations that provide a battery charge for electric-powered vehicles someday be as commonplace as gas stations are today?
Tim Milburn hopes so.
The green-energy proponent and Park Ridge resident believes more charging stations are on their way to the Chicago area as new, electric-powered vehicles come on the market.
“The technology is coming,” Milburn said.
Milburn, of consulting group Green Way Energy, recently tried to encourage Park Ridge’s elected officials to consider owning and installing electric-car-charging stations in a public parking lot. The cost can range from $14,000 to $19,000 for a pair of electric-vehicle stations, he said, but after some time they can become a revenue-generator for the city.
“What a lot of places do is start by not charging and then they add a fee as people get comfortable with it,” Milburn said.
Ways of billing include a flat fee and charging based on the duration of the charge or the amount of electricity used.
With lingering financial concerns Park Ridge’s elected officials were hesitant to explore Milburn’s proposal at this time, though 4th Ward Alderman Sal Raspanti said this would not preclude the City Council from talking about the matter during budget discussions early next year.
For Milburn, the primary benefits of electric vehicles are the reduction in greenhouse gases and less dependence for the country on foreign oil. Because most electric vehicles cannot travel beyond 100 miles without requiring a charge, the more charging stations there are, the more comfortable drivers will feel going electric, Milburn believes.
There are currently two different types of plug-in electric vehicles. Some vehicles run entirely off a charged battery; others are a hybrid that can also run on gasoline when the battery is not charged.
According to Henry Haupt, a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, there are 130 registered vehicles in the state that are solely electric-powered.
Electric-car charging stations are cropping up in several suburban communities. In Niles, a “Level 2” station near the Golf Mill Shopping Center’s food-court entrance allows owners of electric vehicles to charge up while they shop. The service is currently free.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a Level 2 charging station “adds about 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time, depending on the vehicle.”
Shoppers at Lincolnwood Town Center, 3333 W. Touhy Ave., in Lincolnwood, can also charge up.
The village of Skokie is now exploring the installation of charging stations in a parking lot adjacent to the new Skokie Swift station at Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard, said Ann Tennes, village spokeswoman. The lot is used as a waiting or dropping-off area for vehicles, but spaces could potentially be dedicated to electric-car chargers, Tennes indicated.
“What we’re doing is pursuing grant funds for the actual installation of the mechanism,” she said. “Then we would need to come up with a policy and parameters.”
Anyone who has stopped at a tollway oasis has likely seen an electric-car-charging station, as well. Four pairs of fast-charging stations were installed at four tollway oases, including the Des Plaines Oasis on Interstate 90, the O’Hare Oasis on Interstate 294 near Schiller Park, and the Lake Forest Oasis on I-294.
I-Go Carsharing, which has added electric vehicles to its fleet of vehicles, is preparing to add charging stations at three locations within the city of Evanston. They will be available in city municipal lots at 1702 Chicago Ave., 2122 Central St., and 825 Hinman Ave.
“There will be a public charging option for each location once the project is completely,” said Catherine Hurley, Evanston’s sustainability coordinator. It is not yet known when the stations will be up and running.
Businesses are also beginning to install charging stations across the suburbs. These include Autobarn Nissan, 1012 Chicago Ave., in Evanston; Martin Nissan, 5240 Golf Road, Skokie; Star Nissan, 5757 W. Touhy Ave., Niles; and an office plaza at 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines.
Walgreens also offers car charging at stores in Evanston, Northfield, Highland Park, Palatine, and at a number of Chicago locations, including Canfield and Higgins. Some Whole Foods Market stores, including those in Northbrook and Sauganash, also have charging stations.