Charging stations getting started

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We have had a variety of alternatively-powered vehicles at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. Diesel-powered vehicles using processed cooking oil from restaurants, neighborhood electric vehicles, owner-assembled electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles have made important contributions to the fair.

This year, Misha Zaderej brought a gasoline-powered motorcycle he converted to electric power, discussed the conversion process and demonstrated the bike’s prowess. Rick Rud brought his Nissan Leaf and provided visitors with an opportunity to test drive. He stopped providing rides to allow sufficient time to recharge the vehicle for a successful return home to the suburbs.

Three years ago, we were contacted by a California firm to develop a two-year publicity campaign to alert electric vehicles owners to where they could recharge their cars in the Chicago region. Our proposal was accepted, but when the former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) decided to retire, the project was put on hold until new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) took office. He did not rehire the official in charge of the electric car initiative, and we, too, lost our opportunity to develop the publicity campaign. It would have been an interesting challenge.

As partners in the Rock River Trail Initiative, the Illinois Renewable Energy Association offered to investigate the presence of charging stations in communities along the Rock River to facilitate electric vehicle travel. As Rud suggested, we used the two charging web sites — ChargePoint and Chademo — to locate stations. ChargePoint stations are in Moline, Rock Island, Dixon and Rockford.

In Wisconsin, ChargePoint stations are concentrated in Madison and will be of limited use in terms of Rock River travels. Kohl’s department stores are installing electric car charging stations this fall. One will be located at their Johnson Creek store along Highway 26, northeast of Janesville. We were informed a Google search revealed a charging station near the intersection of I-90 and U.S. Highway 14 in Janesville, but we were unable to find it through a web search.

There will be more charging stations over time; those open to the public are likely to be in high-traffic areas. Many of the stations will allow customers to know in advance via phone whether a connection is available during the time slot in which they seek to recharge.

Most of the vehicles can be recharged by plugging into a domestic wall socket. If charging the vehicle at home, it is important to follow all fire and safety regulations included in the owner’s manual.

Household circuits are designed to be used at full load only for a limited period of time, usually about an hour. Charging an electric vehicle can take six to eight hours, which can increase wire and component temperatures to hazardous levels. To limit electrical demand on a circuit, consider having a dedicated circuit for vehicle charging installed.

As the Rock River Trail Initiative continues its development, we hope to reach the point at which electric vehicles can travel its length from Waupun, Wis., to Rock Island, Ill.

From the Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2012, issue

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