photo: Better Place
I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.
First Chicago gets Rahm Emanuel, now electric cars.
Well, at least an electric car infrastructure. In a move that indicates electric cars won’t just be a phenomenon of Greater Portlandia, utility Exelon and the city will roll out 280 charging stations across Chicagoland by year’s end. Two stations will even be solar-powered.
It’s part of a smart grid demonstration project, partially funded by the federal government, to get a jump-start on the potential impact on the electric system if Chicagoans start buying battery-powered vehicles in big numbers.
Windy, snow-swept Chicago doesn’t exactly pop to the top of the list as an EV epicenter. But former Mayor Richard M. Daley made greening the second city a priority, and according to a spokesperson for Exelon — which owns Chicago utility ComEd — Illinois ranks in the top 10 when it comes to hybrid car ownership.
“ComEd is preparing now for what may be a large influx of PHEVs in the market and managing its impact on the grid,” Kerry Kelly-Guiliano, the Exelon spokesperson, said in an email, referring to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. “And they are putting in place the charging infrastructure to demonstrate that Chicago is plug-in ready.”
The locations for the charging stations have yet to be determined, but Kelly-Guiliano said they would most likely be deployed at places like shopping malls, Chicago’s two airports, and rest stops along the Illinois Tollway in the city.
Chicago follows another unlikely hot spot for electric cars, the petro capital of Houston. Late last year, utility NRG Energy announced plans to build a $10 million electric charging network in a 25-mile radius surrounding downtown Houston.
Initially, Chicago’s electric charging network will be used by a fleet of electric and hybrid cars maintained by ComEd.
Now we just want to see Mayor Emanuel behind the wheel of a Chevy Volt.