City Council plugs in to user-funded electric car outlets

<p>This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows the screen of a charge point for a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. Orlando already has more than 300 stations in the area. (AP Photo/John Raoux)</p>

This Sept. 4, 2013 photo shows the screen of a charge point for a new electric rental car in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Orlando will be home to a first-of-its-kind electric rental car initiative where hotel partners will valet park the electric rental for free and charge it for you. Orlando already has more than 300 stations in the area. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Naperville City Council has agreed on a fee structure for its expanded lineup of electric vehicle charging stations.

Approving the addition of three new parking spaces with the plug-ins at the surface lot on Van Buren Avenue, the council deliberated the appropriate fee to collect for the slots, ultimately doubling the 75-cent hourly price initially proposed.

Three charging stations, installed after the city received them in 2011 as part of its move to a smart grid, have been in use at no charge to drivers for more than a year. Two of them have been utilized to gauge the effect of the devices on the city-owned electric utility, and the third was placed in the downtown parking lot. Drivers of electric vehicles were allowed to use the space for free while the city collected usage data.

Now the city plans to add three more plug-in spaces, offsetting a majority of the $25,000 cost for buying, installing and maintaining the stations with an expected $15,000 grant.

Noting that the city’s Electric Department is facing a deficit in the coming year, Councilman Doug Krause said he opposed the low fee and pointed out that those who drive electric vehicles do not contribute to the revenue stream that pays for local road maintenance, through the city’s share of the gasoline tax charged at the pump.

Council member Paul Hinterlong was hesitant to bump up the hourly parking/charging fee, saying it seemed punitive for drivers who had heeded the city’s encouragement to adopt more sustainable and eco-friendly habits.

But others on the dais expressed concern that despite a three-hour limit on all downtown parking, keeping the fee very low could encourage drivers to leave their cars parked at the plug-ins for extended periods.

Council member Steve Chirico, who drives an electricity-fueled Tesla, said he’s confident that electric vehicle users will take a $1.50 hourly fee in stride. Bob Fieseler, another council member who drives an electric car, said fueling vehicles locally has national security implications as well, because conventional cars and trucks depend on petroleum products purchased from overseas interests that are sometimes unfriendly to the U.S.

Fieseler also has noted that while the remote power plants providing electricity do produce emissions, the exhaust-free vehicles that use that power don’t harm local air quality.

“There are societal benefits to not having a gasoline-fueled combustion engine,” he said.

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