In demand: Electric car-charging stations

Range anxiety is the term electric car owners give to their trepidation over running out of a charge and being stranded on the road.

“Anyone who has driven an electric vehicle has experienced it,” said Ted Lowe, a director with the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association.

Years ago, we dreamed of the day when there was a public infrastructure available for electric car owners to charge their vehicles, Lowe said.

Today there are 7,499 public electric vehicle charging stations in the United States, and since 2012, the city of Naperville has laid claim to one of them. To meet the demand of users, the city will be installing an additional two dual stations.

Caitlin Marcon, a project manager for the city, said when it moved forward with the Smart Grid, it was gifted an electric charging station at 44 W. Van Buren Ave.

For a year, the city provided the service free of charge to study usage. Data collection showed that the charging station had significant usage, Marcon said.

“The city also received a number of complaints that many times a vehicle owner would come to downtown Naperville, and the station would already be in use,” she added.

“Electric car owners would have to find elsewhere to park and wait around to get a charge before heading back home,” Marcon said.

As a result, the city opted to increase the number of charging stations.

“We found that electric charging stations users generally come from outside the area to dine and shop in Naperville,” Marcon said.

However, Naperville residents also were among the users, she added.

Marcon said the additional charging stations are a good opportunity to attract additional vehicle owners, please the current users, and take advantage of some grant rebate money from the state of Illinois.

Motorists who charge their electric vehicles at city of Naperville stations will pay $1.50 per hour to charge.

“The majority of electric car owners charge their vehicles in their garage,” Lowe said. “Public charging is something that is done only when you need to.”

Lowe contended that, at one time, electric vehicles were more of a hobby than an industry.

“Now there are 28 different models of electric cars being made by eight to 10 companies,” he said.

“Things are changing very rapidly,” Lowe added. “The newest Tesla electric car can go up to 200 miles on a charge.”

While electric vehicles still represent a small amount of all car sales, they appear to be a growing number.

In 2013, of the 15,531,609 new vehicles sold in the United States, plug-in hybrid (PHEVs), extended range (EREVs), and battery power vehicles equaled 96,702 of total sales based on data from the Electric Drive Transportation Association. In 2012, 52,835 electric vehicles were sold.

There are more than 12,000 electric vehicles on the roads in Illinois, not including leased vehicles, according to Kim Biggs with the Illinois EPA. This statistic could be because of the rebates offered in Illinois.

“As part of the Illinois Alternate Fuels Rebate Program, the Illinois EPA provides a vehicle rebate for the purchase of certain eligible electric vehicles (as well as natural gas, propane and vehicles that use E85 fuel),” Biggs said.

Pre-owned or leased vehicles are not eligible for a rebate, Biggs said, to qualify a vehicle must be purchased from an Illinois dealership.

The rebate amount is 10 percent of the base retail price of the vehicle as reflected on the base MSRP, not including add-on equipment options, up to $4,000, Biggs said.

Lowe hopes that electric cars will someday be powered exclusively by solar and wind energy.

“Transportation doesn’t get much better than making your own energy,” Lowe concluded.

This winter has been a doozy, and it’s not over yet. Got an interesting winter driving story? Email Cathy Janek at