Half of urban suburbs lack public electric car chargers


Before Bernie Powell bought a blue Tesla Model Y, he cycled to electric car chargers around Chicago.

He wanted to ask people about their experiences with EVs and how accessible public chargers would be from a River West condo that doesn’t have EV chargers.

“I went to three or four garages and said, ‘We can do this,'” Powell said.

Powell, who has relied on public stations since purchasing his electric vehicle, is looking to install a charger in his apartment. Still, he said he’s managed to pull it off so far.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Electric vehicles are registered in all 77 community areas in Chicago, but more than 40 of them do not have public EV chargers, city officials said.

Prospective buyers often express concerns about the range of EVs in rural areas where chargers are scarce. But the shortage of public chargers presents a unique set of challenges in building a robust EV charger network in a dense urban area like Chicago.

On Friday, May 19, 2023, Tesla Model Y owner Bernie Powell used the Tesla app to find available charging stations for his car.

Bernie Powell, owner of a Tesla Model Y, uses the Tesla app to find available charging stations for his car.

Tyler Pasiak Larivière/The Sun-Times

EV Adoption in Illinois and Chicago Raises Charging Network Issues

State and federal laws are accelerating the EV revolution in Illinois and across the United States. In Illinois, Over 70,000 EVs on the road, the number of which is expected to increase significantly. In September 2021, Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the Climate Change and Job Equity Act, setting a goal of 1 million EVs in Illinois by 2030.

The law also established rebates for EV buyers and incentives for public and private organizations to install chargers.

There are 12,267 electric vehicles registered in Chicago, about 5,000 more than the number of electric vehicles registered a year ago.

But with 70 percent of Chicago residents living in multifamily housing, access to chargers can be a challenge for EV drivers, said Samantha Bingham, Chicago Department of Transportation clean transportation program director. Evan Carver, an assistant professor of environment, geography and urbanization at the University of Chicago, said most EV charging takes place in single-family homes with private garages and driveways.

But Carver said city dwellers are prime candidates for EV adoption because they drive fewer miles on average per day.

Danny Freeman, senior partner in the energy and utilities division at consulting firm West Monroe, said such driving patterns make EV range concerns somewhat “overstated” for most Chicagoans.

Some Chicagoans struggle to find stable charging

Mr. Powell is working on installing his Tesla charger in his apartment. He said this created “a lot of complexity,” including costs and working with existing infrastructure. If that effort fails, he plans to install it at his girlfriend’s house in Lake Bluff.

Ryan Freeland moved from Los Angeles to Chicago in a plug-in hybrid car. When he and his wife lived in Los Angeles, they would charge their car in the driveway. But in Chicago, he doesn’t have his EV charger nearby, so he uses street parking near his home in Lincoln Park.

The couple uses public chargers, which Freeland said are often slow, broken, crowded or inconveniently located. .

The company’s plug-in hybrids can run 40 to 30 miles on battery power. When the battery runs out, the petrol engine will start. Freeland said this battery range will work for most urban driving once access to chargers is improved.

“It still seems like there’s a lot that can be done to get Chicago a few steps further in that process,” Freeland said. Said.


Bernie Powell shows an app you can use to pass the time while charging your Tesla Model Y at Target’s Tesla charging station at 2656 N. Elston Ave.

Tyler Pasiak Larivière/The Sun-Times

Bingham bought an EV, but there were no EV chargers in his apartment or in his neighborhood.

“Everything changed because I wanted to go to a place where there were chargers available,” Bingham said.

This affected where she ran her errands, and using public chargers cost her extra time and money. Bingham said charging at home costs about $2.50 for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, but about $4.50 at public chargers. Even with her EV charger, which is the fastest available, Ms. Bingham waits 30 to 45 minutes for the car to charge her 80 percent.

About 175 of Chicago’s more than 850 public EV charging stations are Tesla’s. For now, Tesla chargers only work with Tesla vehicles, but that should change soon.

during February announced by the White House Tesla plans to open up at least 7,500 new and existing chargers to the public by the end of 2024.

The announcement is part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to promote EV adoption. In November 2021, Mr. Biden signed into law a bipartisan infrastructure bill that included rebates for EV buyers and federal dollars for building chargers along interstate highways.

However, city chargers and residential building chargers are not eligible for funding under this National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Scheme.

Startups and Politicians Seek EV Charging Solutions

Diallo Powell, co-founder and CEO of Stak Mobility, said the company hopes to open charging stations in residential, retail and mixed-use developments in Cook County.

Powell said Stak is looking to address the city’s charging space constraints by constructing buildings. Multi-level charging carousel. The driver will put the car in the parking lot on the ground level. Once the driver alights, the merry-go-round actually works like a Ferris wheel, propelling the car up to 60 feet in the air to an empty charging spot.

Stak Mobility charging carousel.

A charging carousel developed by Stak Mobility will allow more electric vehicles to be charged in areas with scarce vacant land.

Screenshot of the Stak Mobility video

He plans to have two carousels up and running in the next few months. one in Gainesville, Florida and another in Pittsburgh. In Gainesville, Powell said the Stak carousel gave him 26 charging spaces in a four-car parking lot.

“People are still stuck with cars as their primary mode of transportation, and in those areas and many secondary cities, I think we can do a lot to help them transition to electric vehicles. said Powell.

State Senator Sarah Feigenholz (D-Chicago) advocated for urbanization in the 6th District, which includes parts of Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and the Near North Side, some of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods. We are witnessing the challenges of EV charging. The district also contains some of Chicago’s most EV-rich zip codes, according to state data.

Sponsored by Feigenholz Senate Bill 40If passed, the measure would require EV-friendly parking spaces in all new single-family homes and new and renovated multi-family homes in Illinois.

Bernie Powell plugs in a Tesla Model Y to charge at a target at 2656 N. Elston Ave., Friday, May 19, 2023.

Bernie Powell plugs in a Tesla Model Y to charge at a target at 2656 N. Elston Ave.

Tyler Pasiak Larivière/The Sun-Times

Access Issues, Traffic Concerns Still Remain

Lack of access to chargers is not just a problem in the Veigenholz area. In fact, there are even fewer public charging stations south and west of Chicago, making EV deployment impractical in those areas.

“When you look at where EV chargers are distributed, they tend to be concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods,” consultant Freeman said. “That’s something that still needs to be addressed,” he added, especially considering the potential savings EVs could bring to low-income Chicagoans.

Carver said the city “should work” to reduce emissions through the spread of electric vehicles.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t see EVs as the ultimate solution to the city’s desire to fight climate change or improve mobility. Even if everyone in Chicago started driving EVs, the city would still face congestion, traffic fatalities, and road maintenance issues.

“Ask yourself whether cities want to go all out with EVs, or whether they want to have a more comprehensive mobility policy that includes transportation, walkability and biking convenience,” Carver said.

A community charging station for electric vehicles along North Boulevard near the western suburbs of Oak Park.

Community charging stations for electric vehicles. Next to the CTA Green Line, near the western suburbs of Oak Park North He is on Boulevard.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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