President Obama has thrown a lot of support behind electric cars as cities and automakers alike line up to provide the vehicles and infrastructure. Chicago is going to add 280 charging stations…for what electric cars?
Some electric car skeptics say that there isn’t an infrastructure in place to support electric vehicles. What, you don’t have electricity in your house? Apartment dwellers, however, face a more difficult problem of charging their vehicles, especially in large cities like Chicago. The city of Chicago has signed a $1.9 million deal with 350Green to install 280 charging systems around the city, which is great…except Chicago doesn’t have any electric vehicles.
Nissan and GM are the only two companies actually selling electric vehicles right now, and neither the Leaf nor the Volt are available for purchase in Chicago right now, and probably won’t be until late in 2011. Ford will launch the Focus Electric later this year, and while it will initially be available in Chicago, if the rollout is anything like Nissan and GM’s, they’ll be selling a few hundred cars a month. Oh, and these rapid charging stations won’t work with the Focus Electric (which will lack fast charging capability at launch), and by the time the each of the $65,000 charging stations are installed, they could be obsolete as the system will use a Japanese charging standard, even as the Society of Automotive Engineers works to establish a new fast charging standard here in the States.
I think installing public charging stations is a good idea. However, with many cities, including Chicago, facing multi-billion dollar budget deficits I’ve got to wonder about paying to install almost 300 charging stations in a city that, as of right now, has almost a zero electric vehicle presence and stations that could be functionally obsolete by the time electric cars are on the road en masse. I know Chicago is a big city, but perhaps a 100 charging stations consolidated in strategic locations might be a wiser use of the money. As it stands, Obama’s goal of a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 seems like a moonshot, and I can’t help but feel like this is putting the wagon before the horse. Too much too soon, or is that the kind of support EV’s need to make it?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.